The National Alliance — the largest of all Iraqi political blocs in parliament, which leads the Iraqi political process — seems fractured, even as the country is only a few steps from the March 2014 House elections.
The National Alliance’s leaders are not concealing their concern over losing the political gains achieved in the past eight years. The disagreements between the different political blocs in the alliance are numerous and complicated. However, the leadership is keen on keeping the alliance intact — on the surface at least — on the eve of elections that could guarantee its remaining in power albeit the narrow success it achieved in the past two elections. Yet, there are a number of changes that have emerged between the different blocs of this coalition that may stand against achieving this goal.
There are two basic and different visions to the future of the Iraqi political process. The first is to keep Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki’s State of Law Coalition in the forefront. The other view rejects this option completely because it feels that Al Maliki and his bloc have got their chance twice and have failed on all levels. They also consider Al Maliki to be the source of further complicating the Iraqi political scene and making it reach the edge of the abyss.
Al Ahrar bloc’s stands and statements were always made to attract attention in the Iraqi political popular scene. The latest shocker was the decision of Muqtada Al Sadr, the bloc’s chairman, to retire from politics. All the political blocs inside the National Alliance were not happy to hear the news except the State of Law Coalition. Soon enough, Al Sadr changed his mind and decided to continue in politics, raising more questions.
The State of Law Coalition has always regarded Al Ahrar as a threat to its political future, especially after the regression it registered in the last governorate councils’ elections in opposition to the successes achieved by Al Ahrar Sadrists.
The rapprochement between the Muwatin bloc led by Ammar Al Hakim — another winner in the governing council elections — Al Ahrar and the Fadila bloc, chaired by Ammar Tuema, is another source of anxiety for the State of Law Coalition because these new formations open the way towards drawing new election maps. An alliance between these three blocs or with other parts outside the National Alliance is possible, however, their chances of winning depends on the extent of their independence being overruled by Tehran or US-agenda driven strategies.
Observers of the Iraqi political scene will notice the procedures taken by the State of Law Coalition to weaken the Ahrar bloc to get rid of them. These procedures may be seen in the mistreatment of the bloc’s chairman and its other symbols, backing the Asaib Ahl Al Haq — the League of the Righteous group, which splintered away from the Sadrists and is constantly clashing with it. The third procedure used by the State of Law Coalition is pressurising Iran to minimise its support of Al Ahrar Sadrists in favour of backing the Asaib instead.
In the pre-elections atmosphere, all Iraqi political blocs are poised in an effort to remain in the political process or to gain more footage. These blocs have started using cosmetic measures to brighten their image and that of their possible nominees as it had done several times over past elections.
Al these procedures are normal and expected because all these blocs have nothing new to offer in the way of programmes and serious initiatives that may restore the Iraqi people’s eroding trust in them. After undergoing 10 years of an invasion, occupation, and a new political process with all its negative aspects of bad governance, poor performance and corruption, these blocs failed to produce new leadership that would be able to face the huge challenges facing Iraq today.
They have also proven that the ideological frameworks of these political parties are not what is needed for Iraq in the coming elections.
Iraq is in dire need of new leadership that has a clear vision for development and that looks with a certain degree of confidence towards the future. Iraq needs a leadership that does not mislead voters through old and dilapidated methods to gain their votes.
The chance for change is available to Iraqis once every four years.
The people in Iraq today have two options: Either they reproduce the same political process with its traditional symbols and failed ways that everyone has come to know over the past years, which contradicts the basis of democracy chosen in Iraq. Or, to tread another way, which resembles the moral and patriotic responsibility of defending the country and its people and refusing the current status quo. This also entails that all Baghdad’s Green Zone politicians be relieved and retired from their jobs so as to leave Iraqis in peace.
It is high time these politicians leave the political scene, where people are living under the lines of poverty in a country with an annual budget exceeding $100 billion (Dh367 billion).
This second route will prepare for the birth of new leadership that may be able to change and reflect the ambitions of Iraqis and get rid of the sorry politicians currently in charge where no two disagree about their failure in performance, the huge profits they reaped and their vast corruption.
Change in Iraq needs well-educated and conscientious people who will play a vital role in the elections to employ new visions towards developing the country and thus assisting voters to make the right choices.
Dr Mohammad Akef Jamal is an Iraqi writer based in Dubai.