• Iraq parties plot for power as votes counted


    BAGHDAD: Iraq’s political parties are already maneuvering to form a government nearly two weeks before preliminary results from the elections are due, with Nuri al-Maliki’s bid to retain the premiership hanging in the balance.

    With violence at its worst in years and many voters dissatisfied over rampant corruption, high unemployment and poor basic services, the incumbent premier faces strong opposition.

    But Maliki’s bloc is still widely expected to take the largest number of parliament seats from the April 30 vote, even if they do not win a majority, sparking a race between him and his rivals to secure the 165 seats necessary to form a government.

    Parties from Iraq’s Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish communities have already begun to meet to discuss potential alliances, though provisional results are not expected until May 25.

    “Politics parties . . . are maneuvering in the meantime until results are announced,” said Ihsan al-Shammari, professor of politics at Baghdad University.

    “Opposition groups, if they will be able to gather 50 percent plus one [of the 328 parliamentary seats], they would prefer to isolate Maliki,” he added.

    Several groups have proactively sought out potential coalition partners in a bid to speed up a government formation process that took more than nine months following 2010 elections, and is again expected to require a protracted period of time.

    Maliki’s State of Law bloc sent a letter to rival parties, including those Maliki has publicly refused to ally with, earlier this month outlining a potential program for government.

    The letter, a copy of which was seen by Agence France-Presse, contained an 18-point plan made up largely of calls for coalition partners to support women’s rights, back a fair distribution of wealth, and reject sectarian policies.

    But it did also say potential allies should back decentralization, and support the speedy approval of three key laws: one governing Iraq’s political parties, another regulating its energy sector, and a third creating an upper chamber of parliament.



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