Shiite Fundamentalist Coalition Announced Al-Maliki Might Not win Second Term

Al-Zaman reports in Arabic that five major Shiite fundamentalist parties along with some other personalities and small parties have announced the National Iraqi Alliance, the successor to the United Iraqi Alliance that had grouped the same parties plus the Islamic Mission (Da’wa) Party of current prime minister Nuri al-Maliki.

This move could keep Nuri al-Maliki from winning another term– and could therefore affect the relations of the Iraqi government with American military commanders.

The electoral alliance includes the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, the Badr Organization (the political arm of ISCI’s paramilitary), the Sadr Movement, the Islamic Virtue Party (Fadila), and the National Reform Party (Islah) of former prime minister Ibrahim Jaafari (a splinter of the Da’wa). There are also a couple of small Sunni factions (but this is not new– the original UIA ran some Sunnis and three Sunnis were seated in parliament under that rubric after the elections held in late January, 2005).

Al-Maliki’s Da’wa Party declined to join the renewed coalition. It is rumored that al-Maliki wants the distribution of seats in parliament for Da’wa to be increased if it joins the NIA. Da’wa was awarded only 24 seats after the last election, in which the United Iraqi Alliance had won 132 out of the 275 in parliament. Its rival, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), received 30. The leaders of the NIA apparently are inflexible with regard to the matter of proportion among the parties.

An extended and excellent analysis of the new/old coalition has been posted by Reidar Vissar to his site, Historiae.

Depending on the precise language of the as yet stalled electoral law, when parliament passes it, this development could be a matter of political life and death.

Let’s just imagine some scenarios for next January’s parliamentary election:

In the provincial elections held last January in Dhi Qar, ISCI, the Sadrists and the Islamic Virtue Party got altogether about 40 percent of the vote. The Da’wa got only about 23%. Other provincial tallies are given here. In most provinces, with the exception of Baghdad and Basra, the old United Iraqi Alliance did just about twice as well as Da’wa.

If the NIA does as well in provincial elections as the old UIA did in provincial elections, it will again be the biggest party/coalition in the national legislature. By the constitution, it would therefore form the next government, and al-Maliki may at that point regret not having joined.

Otherwise, in parliamentary systems often the coalitions are formed after the election rather than before.

At that point Da’wa may join the NAI. But I think al-Maliki will get more steet credit for having waited, and he might think he will be able to extract a price for giving the NIA its parliamentary majority, i.e., the prime minister position.

As I read the constitution, if the National Iraqi Alliance is the single biggest party/coalition in parliament after the election, it will be offered the task of forming the government (it will need partners to bring it to 138 seats).

That is, al-Maliki is taking a real risk in not joining the NAI, because if it can strike a deal to get to 138 without Da’wa, its leadership may decide to dump al-Maliki. The tough stance he is taking could well cost him the prime ministership.

If the Shiites go into the elections split, moreover, they will end up giving enormous power to the Sunni and Kurdish factions that take one of the two party-coalitions to a majority in parliament. You could imagine the Kurds trying to extract a price for helping form the government– maybe Kirkuk province?

Aljazeera English has video on al-Maliki’s fight for political survival:

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