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.”


UN says Libyan sides sign countrywide cease-fire deal

Updated 14 min 59 sec ago

UN says Libyan sides sign countrywide cease-fire deal

  • Libya is split between a UN-supported government in the capital, Tripoli, and rival authorities based in the east
  • Libya’s prized light crude has long featured in the country’s civil war, with rival militias and foreign powers jostling for control of Africa’s largest oil reserves

GENEVA: The United Nations said Friday that the two sides in Libyan military talks had reached a “historic achievement” with a permanent cease-fire agreement across the war-torn North African country.
After mediation this week led by UN envoy for Libya Stephanie Turco Williams, the 5+5 Joint Military Commission reached what the UN called an “important turning point toward peace and stability in Libya.”
Details were not immediately available, but the two sides were taking part in a signing ceremony in Geneva on Friday morning.
Libya is split between a UN-supported government in the capital, Tripoli, and rival authorities based in the east. The two sides are backed by an array of local militias as well as regional and foreign powers. The country was plunged into chaos after the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
“The road to a permanent cease-fire deal was often long and difficult,” Williams, a former US State Department official, said in Arabic at the signing ceremony.
“Before us is a lot of work in the coming days and weeks in order to implement the commitments of the agreement,” she said. “It is essential to continue work as quickly as possible in order to alleviate the many problems due to this conflict facing the Libyan people.”
“We have to give people hope of a better future,” Williams added. She expressed hope the agreement will succeed “in ending the suffering of Libyans and allowing those displaced by the conflict to return to their homes.”
Ali Abushahma, the head of the delegation and a field commander for the UN-supported administration in Tripoli, said: “We have had enough suffering, enough bloodshed ... We hope we will change the suffering on all the territories of Libya, especially in the south.”
“I appeal to all Libya: Be one hand,” he said, warning about polarization by factions.
The meetings this week mark the fourth round of talks involving the Joint Military Commission under Williams’ watch. The Geneva-based military talks come ahead of a political forum in Tunisia in November. That forum aims to “generate consensus on a unified governance framework and arrangements that will lead to the holding of national elections,” the UN mission said.
On Wednesday, Williams had said the two warring factions agreed on issues that “directly impact the lives and welfare of the Libyan people,” citing agreements to open air and land routes in the country, to work to ease inflammatory rhetoric in Libyan media, and to help kickstart Libya’s vital oil industry.
Libya’s prized light crude has long featured in the country’s civil war, with rival militias and foreign powers jostling for control of Africa’s largest oil reserves.
Last month, the two sides reached preliminary agreements to exchange prisoners and open up air and land transit across the country’s divided territory. This breakthrough also accompanied the resumption of oil production after a months-long blockade by powerful tribes allied with military commander Khalifa Haftar, the leader of the eastern-based forces.
Haftar’s forces launched an offensive in April 2019 to try and capture Tripoli, the seat of the UN-supported government in the west. But his campaign collapsed in June.
Fighting has since died down amid international pressure on both sides to avert an attack on the strategic city of Sirte, the gateway to Libya’s major oil export terminals.