History's End

History will end only when Man does

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  • Wednesday, February 09, 2005

    Iraqi Politics

    It is apparently going to take a while longer for the final results of the Iraqi election to be announced, but Iraqi Election Discussions has an early projection up:
    Seats - Party/List
    140 - United Iraqi Alliance (Shi’ite)
    68 - Kurdish List
    40 - The Iraqi List (PM Allawi)
    3 - Natl Elites & Cadres (Moqtada al Sadr)
    3 - People’s Union (Communist)
    3 - Iraqis List (Pres. al-Yawer)
    3 - IMIK (Islamist Kurdish)
    15 - Other parties
    275 - TOTAL SEATS
    The UIA is dominating the vote already, and looks to get a majority in the National Assembly. However, the Iraqi Constitution is set up so that it takes 2/3 of the Assembly to appoint people to the Presidential Council. That means that the UIA and the Kurds will need to form a general coalition in order to set up a government, as it is the presidency council which determines the Prime Minister. The Kurds, being the second most powerful bloc in the Assembly, and not explicitly secular like the Iraqi List, will be the partner with the UIA. They will use this opportunity well, I am sure, and are already flexing their muscles:

    The Kurds’ confidence in their political muscle has grown tremendously since Monday, when it became apparent they will almost certainly have the second-largest - and possibly the most cohesive and most courted - bloc in the constitutional assembly.

    The electoral commission announced then that the main Kurdish coalition had a quarter of the 4.6 million votes tallied so far, behind the leading Shiite slate of candidates but well ahead of the other parties. The Kurds are expected to take at least a fifth of the 275 assembly seats by the time the final count is announced.

    Securing the president’s office would give the Kurds enormous power in appointing key members of the new government, including the prime minister, and would bolster the standing of Kurds in the Middle East, where the governments of Turkey, Syria and Iran are fearful of any moves toward independence by minority Kurd populations in their own countries.

    I think that the Kurds will get the post of President, which is mainly a prestige post, as all three members of the council are equal in power. I expect the PM to be a religious Shi'ite, probably the leader of the UIA list.

    My advice to the Kurds is to get the Foreign Minister and Defense Minister posts, if possible. The Foreign Minister post is useful, as it raises the image and prestige of Kurds in the Middle East, and the Defense Ministry would be good to have on general principles. I would advise to not get any economic posts. The economy and infrastructure in Iraq will take time to build, and thus there is a good chance that Iraqis will blame the government for the inevitable failure. In such a scenario it would do the Kurdish list well to avoid blame, and instead have the UIA get the blame. This would help the Kurds, because it could reduce the amount of votes that the UIA gets in the December elections. This will give the Kurds more options, and could give them more power in the coalition that forms after those elections.

    My advice to the current Prime Minister Allawi is to not join the UIA-Kurdish coalition. Given the likely distribution of votes, it would be difficult to get either the post of President or Prime Minister. As those would be the two most visible posts, it would be almost necessary to get one of the two, otherwise the other members of the coalition would get more press, necessary for a better outcome in December. Far better would be to become the head of the Opposition. There you would have almost as much visibility as the PM, and would be able to avoid blame for things wrong. Since the economy and infrastructure won't be fixed by December, you can use the Opposition pulpit to help draw support for the December elections. This gives you a chance of getting a better share of the votes for the Constitutional government that follows. Also, by staying out of the coalition you could actively try and draw away support from the UIA from within. Encourage it to fracture or try and woo away members to join the opposition. That is my advice for now, but events on the ground could nullify it quickly.

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