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I am a public health doctor who is cynically optimistic about most things.

Coalition conundrums

So the results are in and we’ve had time to mull over their significance. Here’s an attempt at forecasting the effects of different coalition combinations for Iraq and political entities.

So a successful coalition needs at least 163 to gain 50% or more of Parliament

Scenario 1: The Difficult Partnership, INM (Allawi) + SOL (Maliki) = 180

Comfortable majority, the ‘will of the people’. Maliki reluctantly accedes prime ministership to Allawi but takes interior, defence and foreign ministries. The two strong personalities frequently clash especially over de-baathification, foreign policy and almost everything resulting in a public punch up caught live on TV. The coalition crumbles amid mutual accusations of power hunger, fraud, outside interests and the like.

Scenario 2: The Reunion, SOL (Maliki) + INA (Hakim+Sadrists) + small group = 159+4 or so more seats

Sadrists refuse to join unless Maliki is not PM. SOL realise there is no one else fit for the job let alone to run ministries. Ahmed Chalabi seizes the indecision, butters up the Sadrists, Majlis and parts of SOL to become leading candidate for PM. US very worried about this and try to intevene, INM not happy being left out (brand it fraud) and more unhappy about rumours of Chalabi PM, counter-lobbying starts in earnest.  Chalabi again denied PM and a relatively unknown compromise candidate emerges, this is all quite familiar…

Scenaro 3: The coalition of the unwilling, INM (Allawi)+Kurdish Alliance (Talabani+Barazani)+Gorran+Tawafuq+Wahdat Al-Iraq+Kurdish Islamic union+minorities = 164

Just scraping a majority and leaving the two main Shii Islamic-leaning blocs out. Very fragmented and pulling in all different directions, the coalition soon crumbles amid accusations of Allawi’s dictatorial tendencies. Back to the drawing board…

Scenario 4: Unlikely bed fellows, INM+INA+(Kurdish alliance/Gorran/Tawafuq etc…) = 163-236

Allawi, Sadrists and Kurdish Alliance – recipe for distaster. Kirkuk becomes a major line of tension almost immediately Kurds vs INM and INA split in between. Kurdish alliance leaves coalition but INM and INA make new coalition with the other small blocs. However Sadrists don’t easily forget the last Allawi premiership and make life difficult for INM. Dysfunctional government lurches from one crisis to another and the patronage networks flow and flow to keep everyone happy. The Iraqi people are not so happy.

There are plenty more possible combinations and larger coalitions but I have tried to keep it simple. The forecast difficulties above may have been slightly exaggerated but it does hopefully highlight the perilous task at hand that can potentially disrupt a fragile situation. It’s up to the politicians to reduce tensions, compromise and respect the final make-up of a government. Irresponsible mud-slinging prior to this has dangerously stoked ill-feeling across the country and if they aren’t careful, personal ambition may wreck the tenuous stability that has gradually returned to Iraq, but I’m not holding my breath.

9 Comments on “Coalition conundrums”

  1. Ali March 27, 2010 at 10:32 am #

    actually together state of law and the national alliance will still be a couple of seats short of a majority, although they could form a coalition with the kurds (even if the sadrists stay in opposition). this would allow maliki to remain in power.

    • Ali Latif March 27, 2010 at 11:02 am #

      You’re right, I got my maths wrong. They can always co-opt a smaller group (e.g wihdat al-iraq + minority etc) without needing to make big concessions.

  2. Ali D March 28, 2010 at 3:20 am #

    I agree on your suggestions of the possible coalitions but perhaps there is a tad too much pessimism in your analyses?

    I see either ‘2’ or ‘4’ working. With scenario 2, I am not sure if U.S. intervention would have much effect at this point and I don’t see the INM in a position to do much about any ‘allegations’ they may have- as a premise, I doubt that Chalabi holds much clout amongst the INA to rise to the top. And with scenario 4, I believe that the coalition would only occur after some ‘relief’ over the issue of Kirkuk occurring first through negotiations; further, the Sadrists (referring specifically to the top tier of the movement) have a relatively stable relationship with the INM- I don’t see them hindering progress simply for the sake of it.

    The way I see it, if Maliki steps down, the SOL will elect the PM and sideline INM with the help of the majority or all of the INA. If not, the government will go to an alliance of INM-Kurds-elements of INA (+Goran/Tawafuq etc.).

    The nature of Iraqi politics does mean, however, that surprises (or shocks) are never too far away..

  3. Ali Latif March 28, 2010 at 8:55 am #

    I agree Ali D, I may have been a bit on the pessimistic side. The Chalabi scenario was a bit tongue-in-cheek. We’ll see what the political horse-trading will conjure up.

  4. Homam Al-Bahrani March 28, 2010 at 9:52 am #

    Outlook seems very bleak

  5. Ali Al-Mawlawi March 28, 2010 at 7:00 pm #

    How about SOL + INM (excluding Sadrists/Fadhila) + Kurds = ~165.

    Tawafuq and Bolani may also come into play.

    Very difficult to predict candidate for Prime Minister. Are SOL willing to field alternative to Maliki? Will it make a difference?

    Any thoughts on nominees for speaker of parliament?

    • Mousa Baraka March 28, 2010 at 7:46 pm #

      Ali Al-Mawlawi, I think you meant INA and not INM (Allawi). It seems like that is the most likely coalition from what I am hearing:

      SoL (89) + Kurdish Alliance (43) + INA (with or without Sadrists/Fadhila: 30 to 70) + (possibly) Tawafuq (6) + (possibly) Minorities (8)= ~ 162 to 216

      This would look very much like the last system: a Kurdish President, a Prime Minister from SoL, and Speaker of Parliament from INA or Tawafuq. Personally, I think a new government, given the shifts in Iraq in the last four years, is better for Iraq than the same coalitions we’ve had for four years. Change is good for Iraq’s nascent democracy.

  6. sajjad March 28, 2010 at 8:35 pm #

    SOL with the kurds and the sadris – quite an easy collection i think – and maliki would be acceptable despite what is sometimes said

    there are other scenarios – but they will all be unstable – as long as there is no return to systematic violence and the others agree to sit in opposition (on the whole), it will still work and crawl to the next election


  1. SOL-INA coalition: what is the point? « British Iraqi Forum - May 5, 2010

    […] May 5, 2010 Mousa Baraka Leave a comment Go to comments So the first deadlock in the coalition conundrum has been broken, with the State of Law (Da’wa) and Iraqi National Alliance (Sadrists, ISCI) […]

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