In the two months since the parliamentary elections of March 7, Iraq has become lost in a maze of confusion as the political process has become paralysed.
Iraqiya, the political bloc that won the elections, is faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles that prevent it from forming a new government.
There are constitutional demands that need to be fulfilled before a government can be formed. In the present circumstances, this means that coalitions need to be formed, concessions offered and deals involving ministerial offices made. In truth, this should not be a major obstacle. Nor is it a novelty, because the country's political blocs faced the same situation during the two previous elections.
In reality, the appeals of the State of Law coalition, which happens to be the government coalition, represent the real obstacle. The coalition, formed by Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki and his Dawa party, insisted on a manual recount. At the same time, it has used all its power and influence to target the alliance that won the largest number of votes. Clearly, it aims to rob the winning alliance of its constitutional right to put together a government.
The United States is extremely concerned about the goings on in Iraq and the possibility that the struggle for the post of prime minister may turn into a violent affair. The likelihood of this is increased by the threats that are being fired back and forth.
The US will not object to any peaceful settlement between the competing parties, because the paralysis of the political process threatens the planned partial military withdrawal that is supposed to begin in August.
Al Maliki, who insists on holding on to his post, and the Dawa party are ignoring the rights of others. The party which is in control of many key posts in the Iraqi government is the primary obstacle to the formation of a new government, thus creating a dangerous power vacuum.
The nationalistic, patriotic slogans that were used during the elections have been discarded, and the sectarian groupings are coming to the fore once again, marring the political process.
During the elections of 2005 and 2006, the Dawa party was able to impose itself as the dominant political force, winning the post of prime minister — the most important political post in the country according to the Iraqi Constitution. However, at the time the Dawa party was part of a coalition established on sectarian lines.
Although there are many different views on the merits of the Dawa party, even its most enthusiastic supporters will struggle to describe its performance during the past five years as brilliant. Ebrahim Al Jaafari failed miserably as head of the transformational government in 2005. Relations between the central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government deteriorated badly and the worst sectarian killings were witnessed during that time.
However, this failure did not seem to cost the Dawa party too much, as Al Maliki, who took over the party's leadership, soon became the next Iraqi premier.
In the past four years, the Dawa party has been able to cement its position in power and improve its relations with tribal leaders. However, it has failed to increase its support. The Dawa party did not run in the February 2009 elections nor the last elections under its political name. Instead, it ran under the State of the Law's name because members of the Dawa party know that their party is not popular in Iraq.
The Dawa party has worked to marginalise the other political forces in its alliance, such as the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and the two Kurdish parties. It has failed to bring about national reconciliation, and has recorded no notable successes in improving services or infrastructure. On the foreign front, Iraq remains isolated and subject to Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter. In addition, Iraq seems not to have broken free from Iran's clutches.
Now that the Dawa party has returned to its old alliance, will it be able to achieve its ambitions and win the post of prime minister for the third time?
The party is going down a dangerous path that will not benefit itself or Iraq. Despite the fact that Al Maliki is capable of winning votes, he was rejected by the most important component in the Iraqi National Alliance — the Sadrists.
The irony is that the Sadrists, who control 40 parliamentary seats, and now oppose Al Maliki vehemently, helped him, and Al Jaafari before him, to become prime minister.
Even Al Maliki's Shiite allies do not want him to remain in office and oppose his insistence that he has the right to do so. This may lead to a power struggle within the Dawa party and the emergence of a new candidate. However, Al Maliki's stubbornness is such that this might lead to a split in a party, which is familiar with internal splits both before and after 2003.
- Dr Mohammad Akef Jamal is an Iraqi writer based in Dubai.