As Iraqis mark 3rd na­tional elec­tions and yearn for change - rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, na­tional unity and progress re­mains as elu­sive as ever

The Kurdish Globe - - NEWS - By Bash­dar Pusho Is­maeel

whether Iraqis, with the ex­cep­tion of the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion, re­ally en­joy a bet­ter stan­dard of liv­ing and bet­ter ser­vices since 2003 and whether a new govern­ment will mean a change to their for­tunes.

It says much about the es­ca­lat­ing blood­shed in Iraq that Bagh­dad deemed it a suc­cess that “only” 14 people were killed on polling day.

A fre­quent theme of the post-Sad­dam pe­riod, es­pe­cially un­der the tax­ing ten­ure of the US, was na­tional rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, en­tic­ing the dis­af­fected Sun­nis into the po­lit­i­cal fold and an ef­fec­tive shar­ing of power that would ap­pease Shi­ites, Sun­nis and Kurds alike.

In 2014, Iraq is prob­a­bly as far as ever from na­tional unity or rec­on­cil­i­a­tion. Iraq was built around three dis­tinct seg­ments and ef­fec­tively will al­ways be frac­tured. It is a ques­tion of how to “glue” the con­stituents the best way pos­si­ble know­ing that there will never be a per­fect fit.

For a start na­tional unity gov­ern­ments based on a quota sys­tem are al­ways go­ing to fail. Due to the frag­mented na­ture of the Iraqi ethno-so­cial pic­ture elec­tions can feel like a na­tional cen­sus than a real demo­cratic pas­sage.

For ex­am­ple, Shi­ites clearly form a ma­jor­ity of the Iraqi pop­u­la­tion and will dom­i­nate Iraqi elec­tions even if you held the elec­tions an­other 10 times over. Sun­nis and Kurds will al­ways dom­i­nate their lo­cal sphere but never at a na­tional level and thus re­main at risk of marginal­i­sa­tion.

Ef­fec­tively, this mix makes a very pro­tracted and ar­du­ous task of sat­is­fy­ing all par­ties.

In­cum­bent Prime Min­is­ter Nouri al-Ma­liki is a prime ex­am­ple of the Iraqi di­vide. He is re­viled by Sun­nis for sidelin­ing them from pol­i­tics, pro­mot­ing a sec­tar­ian agenda, fail­ing to ad­dress Sunni dis­con­tent and fu­elling the re­vived Sunni in­sur­gency. At the same time, he is been her­alded in other cir­cles as the strong­man that can over­came the in­sur­gency and keep Iraq in­tact.

The Kur­dis­tan Re­gion on the other hand has been at log­ger­heads with Bagh­dad right from day one and has fre­quently ac­cused Ma­liki of cen­tral­ist ten­den­cies and poli­cies that set to de­lib­er­ately un­der­mine Kur­dish progress and keep the life­line of the Kurds within Bagh­dad hands.

Yet, Ma­liki’s State of Law is likely to be tri­umphant at the polls. Of course, he has is far from se­cur­ing the 165 seats ma­jor­ity needed and his third ten­ure as Prime Min­is­ter is far from cer­tain but he will start in the driv­ing seat. Ma­liki’s first move would be to en­tice the other weary and cau­tious Shi­ite coali­tions in the Cit­i­zen Coali­tion, led by Sayyed Am­mar al-Hakim, the Ahrar coali­tion of Sayyed Muq­tada al-Sadr and the Na­tional Re­form Al­liance led by for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Ibrahim al-Jaa­fari.

The four main Shi­ite coali­tions alone rep­re­sent 42 po­lit­i­cal en­ti­ties, many with dif­fer­ing views and agen­das, high­light­ing the dis­jointed and dif­fi­cult na­ture of Iraqi pol­i­tics.

With the Shi­ite al­liances rep­re­sent­ing a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of the seats, add to the con­sid­er­able Sunni and Kur­dish vote, the num­ber of pos­si­ble per­mu­ta­tions to form govern­ment are con­sid­er­able.

This in­evitably means that po­lit­i­cal jock­ey­ing and ne- go­ti­a­tions may well run into many months as in 2010.

The Kurds were deemed the king­mak­ers at the past elec­tions and are likely to muster close to the 57 seats se­cured in 2010. Hav­ing sup­ported Ma­liki’s two tenures as Prime Min­is­ter in spite of nu­mer­ous failed prom­ises and Ma­liki’s con­tin­ued stand against Kur­dis­tan, the main Kur­dish po­lit­i­cal par­ties will need to be cer­tain that who­ever they rub­ber stamp in Bagh­dad can give them their key de­mands of oil ex­ports, share of the na­tional budget and seem­ingly for­got­ten res­o­lu­tion to dis­puted ter­ri­to­ries.

If Ma­liki continues as pre­mier and cen­tral­ist poli­cies against Kur­dis­tan con­tinue, or con­versely if the Sunni in­sur­gent fire is not con­tained, Iraqis may not see an­other na­tional elec­tion come 2018.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Iraq

© PressReader. All rights reserved.