Iraqi leaders begin negotiations to form ruling bloc

Iraqi cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr shows his ink-stained index finger outside a polling station in Najaf on Saturday. (AFP)
Updated 15 May 2018

Iraqi leaders begin negotiations to form ruling bloc

  • The scenario most under discussion now would bring together Abadi’s Al-Nassir Alliance, Al-Fattah, which includes the candidates of most of the Shiite armed factions, Nuri Al-Maliki’s State of Law Alliance, Ammar Al-Hakeem’s Hikma Alliance and Ayad Allawi
  • The Iraqi constitution mandates that the largest parliamentary bloc formed after the elections has the exclusive right to nominate the prime minister and form the government

BAGHDAD: Negotiations to form the biggest parliamentary bloc in the new Iraqi Parliament have begun, even though the election results have not yet been approved by the federal court.

The preliminary results, announced by the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) late on Sunday, clearly showed the progress of the “Saeiroon” electoral list, backed by the influential Shiite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr; the “Al-Fattah” list headed by Hadi Al-Amiri, the head of the Badr organization; and the “Al-Nassir” list headed by the current Prime Minister Haider Abadi.

The Iraqi constitution mandates that the largest parliamentary bloc formed after the elections has the exclusive right to nominate the prime minister and form the government. The announced results include 92 percent of the votes but do not include the results of those who voted from abroad, prisoners and those in hospitals; none of those are expected to change the results very much.

The scenario most under discussion now would bring together Abadi’s Al-Nassir Alliance, Al-Fattah, which includes the candidates of most of the Shiite armed factions, Nuri Al-Maliki’s State of Law Alliance, Ammar Al-Hakeem’s Hikma Alliance and Ayad Allawi’s Wattiniya Alliance.

This would secure more than 156 seats and Sadr would be pushed into parliamentary opposition.

Al-Fattah and Al-Nassir tried to form an alliance before the elections, but it collapsed after only 24 hours because of their "not agreeing on the details.”

Getting Al-Nassir and Al-Fattah into a single bloc will provide the necessary protection for the popular mobilization which includes most of the Shiite paramilitary groups and will ensure the continuation of international support for the next government.

“We are afraid that Sadr is not acceptable to the regional and international powers to form the government, so we had to go with the other option,” an anonymous senior Shiite politician familiar with the negotiations launched by several Shiite blocs, told Arab News.

“The negotiations have started already. They (the negotiations) are aiming at bringing Al-Nassir, Al-Fattah and State of Law (SOL) to form the nucleus of the largest bloc as a first step.

“The second step is talking to (Ammar) Al-Hakim and (Ayad) Allawi, who we believe will be able to bring a Kurdish bloc with him.”

The other scenario, which does not seem promising, would be to bring “Saeiroon” and Al-Nassir together to form the nucleus of the largest parliamentary bloc and then move on to ally with Allawi's Wattiniya, Hikma, and a number of small Sunni and Kurdish blocs.

This might get at least 138 seats, but it would also mean that Sadr would not get the post of prime minister and get the minimum acceptance of the regional and international community.

“Sadr is politically unstable and handles things in a temperamental way that does not suit politics,” a prominent Shiite leader close to Abadi told Arab News. “We have considered this option but we found that Al-Fattah can ally with others and easily form a bigger bloc.

“Also, the past years has shown that the easiest decision that Sadr can make is to withdraw his ministers from the government and withdraw his support for his deputies in Parliament. So what would we do if he decided in the middle of the term to boycott the Cabinet or withdraw his support for his deputies in Parliament?

“We have not excluded this option but we believe that we have to think about every single possibility in order to achieve the goal.”

The third scenario, which seems to be a demand for the majority of the Shiite blocs — which did not expect the strong showing of Sadr in this elections — is that Sadr voluntarily chooses to go to the opposition in Parliament. In this case he can play a big role in changing many laws that would achieve his plans calling for comprehensive reform to reduce the financial and administrative corruption rampant in various government departments.

“The ideal role for the Sadrists is to form a strong opposition in Parliament and they have the opportunity now,” Rafid Sadiq, a political analyst, told Arab News.

“Sadr is the only one who can control his parliamentary bloc and prevent its slide into compromises, and thus ensure its strong and influential survival within Parliament.”


Lebanon not expecting new aid pledges at Paris meeting

Updated 10 min 10 sec ago

Lebanon not expecting new aid pledges at Paris meeting

  • The political impasse returned to square one on Sunday when a tentative agreement on a new PM unraveled
  • Lebanon has also been in a political impasse since Saad Al-Hariri quit as prime minister on Oct. 29

BEIRUT/PARIS: Lebanon does not expect new aid pledges at conference which France is hosting on Wednesday to press for the quick formation of a new government that can tackle an acute financial crisis.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian urged Lebanon to create a new government swiftly or risk the crisis worsening and threatening the country’s stability.
The economic crisis is the worst since the 1975-90 civil war: a liquidity crunch has led banks to enforce capital controls and the Lebanese pound to slump by one third.
Lebanon has also been in a political impasse since Saad Al-Hariri quit as prime minister on Oct. 29, prompted by protests against the ruling elite, with no agreement on a new government.
Nadim Munla, senior adviser to Hariri, who is running the government as caretaker, told Reuters the Paris meeting would probably signal a readiness to offer support once a government is formed that commits to reforms.
“They will recognize that there is a short-term problem and that if and when a government (is formed) that basically responds to the aspirations of people, most probably the international community will be ready to step in and provide support to Lebanon, or additional support,” he said.
“It is not a pledging conference.”
Lebanon won pledges of over $11 billion at a conference last year conditional on reforms that it has failed to implement. The economic crisis is rooted in years of corruption and waste that have generated one of the world’s heaviest public debt burdens.
The political impasse returned to square one on Sunday when a tentative agreement on a new prime minister unraveled.
Hariri is now seen as the only candidate for the post.
He has said he would only lead a cabinet of specialist ministers, believing this is the way to address the economic crisis, attract aid, and satisfy protesters who have been in the streets since Oct. 17 seeking the removal of a political class blamed for corruption and misrule.
But Hezbollah and its allies including President Michel Aoun say the government must include politicians.
“Let’s see the coming few days and if there will be an agreement among the political parties on a formation ... otherwise we might take longer,” Munla said. Hariri would be willing to have politicians in cabinet but they should not be “the regular known faces of previous governments.”