07/05/2010

A ruling Shiite coalition in Iraq: What are the threats?

On March 7, 2010 legislative elections took place in Iraq. The main issue in these elections was national unity (see MEDEA’s editorial March 5, 2010) but this is far from being reached. Since then, Iraq has no government. Parties are calling for a recount and the Iraqi political arena is not stable.

Instead of seeing a single political party holding the required majority, the Iraqi political parties play the game of coalitions. The two Shiite parties, State of Law and The Iraqi National Alliance (INA), have reached an agreement to form a post-election coalition which doesn’t allow Iraqi Bloc, Iyad Allawi’s secular party, to win. However, even if four seats are missing to both lists to get the majority, the coalition is the one which will constitute the government.

It turns out that the Shiite coalition raises three major issues.

First, within the Shiite alliance, tensions are present on the question of Prime Minister’s appointment. Indeed, the former Prime Minister N. Al-Maliki wants to keep his position whereas the Iraqi National Alliance does not share this opinion. These two alliances forming a same coalition will need to agree on the appointment of a head of government. Negotiations are ongoing.

Furthermore, the second important point highlighted by the emergence of a Shiite cartel is the Iranian threat. It turns out that some political parties, members of the Shiite coalition, are close to Iran. Putting the Iraqi political power between the hands of a sectarian political deal, whereas the country is in a reconstruction process with the complete departure of the U.S. presence in 2011, and with neighbors like Iran, doubts  appear on what influence Tehran could have on Baghdad.

Finally, the major concern of other Iraqi political parties is the issue of sectarianism. Indeed, the alliance between the party of Nuri al-Maliki and the INA is described as sectarian because it is considered as a sectarian merger.  This question of religious affiliation is always showed up because it will have a major impact on politics and religion in a country which is still weak. It is important to not forget that the main objective is unity of the Iraqi nation. But this unity is seriously threatened by the current political game. Indeed, if we want to have unity, it is essential to have diversity and agreement. However, the Sunni population expresses his fear of a marginalization phenomenon. The secular party, the Iraqi Bloc, which won 91 seats in March 7, 2010, is the first to be isolated whereas it won the elections.

In a country which is still fragile, seven years after Saddam Hussein’s fall, the political game is not a factor of national unity. But to maintain a national agreement, it is essential that the power reflects the reality: the reality of a nation with different religious traditions where none of them will be marginalized.

Sophia Vignard