Opinion | Columnists

Iraq faces political paralysis

Incompetence, lack of experience and vested interests are threatening to destroy democracy

  • By Mohammad Akef Jamal, Special to Gulf News
  • Published: 00:00 January 19, 2012
  • Gulf News

National unity governments are the exception and not the norm in democracies. These governments are usually formed after countries are subjected to serious security challenges that can only be addressed by overcoming disagreements between different political blocs.

However, Iraq does not face a grave threat to its national security from abroad; the danger lies within and is a result of the clashing interests of different political elite and blocs. Its government is paralysed and incapable of guiding the country out of trouble.

Iraq has been beset by endless disagreements following the US withdrawal. There were moves to end the coordination that laid the foundation of the political process in the country, the very process that led to the formation of Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki's government. Endless accusations and statements are traded every day. No one is spared, not even President Jalal Talabani.

And despite the chaos, confusing statements, the overuse of the freedom of expression and a disregard for human rights, many of the present events in Iraq are not spontaneous. Rather, they are a result of the incompetence or the total lack of experience of many key Iraqi politicians. And that is a result of their attitude, placing their own narrow political interests above those of the country.

We also see irresponsible statements made by one lawmaker or the other, which poison the political atmosphere and deepen the crisis. Such statements are not well-intentioned, especially given the difficult times Iraq is currently going through.

The country is experiencing its first crisis after the US withdrawal. The paralysis that has inflicted the political process is due to the deep disagreements between the State of Law coalition and the Al Iraqiya List and, to a lesser degree, between the Kurdish coalition and State of Law.

Signs of collapse of the political process and moves towards an overt confrontation between different political blocs could have been seen even on April 9, 2003. They have taken different forms ever since.

After the blow received by Al Iraqiya, in the form of the arrest warrant against Vice-President Tarek Al Hashemi, it is expected that Al Maliki will target other leaders in the same political bloc in order to remove them from the political arena. The political paralysis demands that Al Maliki be decisive.

Suspensions

The Al Iraqiya List, which is the State of Law coalition's biggest partner in government, is determined to tackle the situation. It fired six of its lawmakers from the list because they attended proceedings in the parliament which Al Iraqiya was boycotting. It has now also threatened its ministers of a similar fate if they do not abide by its decisions. On the other hand, we find that the Kurdish coalition is playing a positive role. Talabani was quick to call for a national conference to address the problem according to the Constitution.

The failure of such a conference means that the political process, which was founded on the basis of quotas, has failed. And at the same time, even if the conference does take place, it does not mean that the political process will survive.

No agreement

Many important politicians have become convinced that the different Iraqi blocs will be unable to reach an agreement, and that is why they have sought the assistance of other countries.

Solving the problem between the State of Law and Al Iraqiya will not be without problems as the disagreement has reached a serious stage.

And despite the fact that everyone is talking about a legal solution for the Al Hashemi case, the situation has been blown out of proportions and has become a crisis that may escalate.

It is difficult to find a way out of this crisis. The prime minister who has decided to resolve the issue in his own way may not be able to continue at the top as his partners in the National Alliance may not back him. This is because of the role he played in marginalising them earlier.

In the event of Al Iraqiya's walking out, there may be moves to form a majority government. It will be a bold decision to take and many politicians have indeed referred to this solution of late, including Al Maliki himself.

However, such a government will not only exclude Al Iraqiya, it will also push aside the Kurdish Coalition, which is a risk as that will put Al Maliki in a tight spot.

In such a case the Kurds will maintain their good relations with Al Iraqiya because their interests do not lie with a majority government. It is in the interests of the Kurds that a unity government is maintained.

If Al Maliki risks removing the Kurds from government, he will no doubt face along with his National Alliance partners, great difficulties in running the country. And he will find himself helpless in dealing with the situation without resorting to force which, in turn, will destroy Iraqi democracy.

Holding early elections is another solution, according to a new law that addresses the many flaws in the current election law.

However, it is difficult to imagine the National Alliance going for such an option, especially as it has two more years in office.

Nevertheless, one of the most important results of this crisis may be that political blocs will stop playing games.

 

Dr Mohammad Akef Jamal is an Iraqi writer based in Dubai.

Gulf News
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