Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The continued stalemate

Today DPA reports a Baghdad roadside bombing has claimed 1 life and left at least fifty-six people injured. Violence has been increasing for awhile now and some observers tie it into the political stalemate.

Yesterday on PRI's The World (link has audio and text), Lisa Mullins introduced a report from Iraq by Susannah George. Excerpt:

SUSANNAH GEORGE: Iraq's parliament has held just one official session since the national elections in March. It lasted less than 20 minutes. That was just enough time to play the Iraqi national anthem and complete the swearing in. About 20 Iraqi legislators met yesterday in an informal session. The lawmakers pledged to make decisions, not speeches. But the only decision they made was to continue to meet this week. Still, Iraqi vice president Adel Abdul Mahdi who was at the meeting, expressed hope that it could yield results.

ADEL ABDUL MAHDI: It will put the pressure on the members of the House of Representatives individually and the blocs. I think we accomplished a good step forward.

GEORGE: But not all the Members of Parliament share the vice president’s optimism. They point out that while the violence continues, there is still no government.

MAHMOUD OTHMAN: It is still in square one.

The ongoing political stalemate. March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted last month, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's six months and fifteen days with no government formed.

Alsumaria TV reports today that Iraqiya is officially denying rumors that they have decided to forgot their first-rights to form a government (rights they won by coming in first in the March elections). Yesterday, Khalid al-Ansary (Reuters) reports the State of Law and the Iraqi National Alliance are giving "themselves five days to pick a single candidate for prime minister, and one politician said the incumbent". Today Alsumaria TV reports that members will only be able to pick from two candidates: either Nouri or Adel Abdul Mehdi (currently the Shi'ite Vice President of Iraq). Meanwhile Sawsan Abu-Husain (Ashar Alawsat Newspaper) interviews Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari about the stalemate:

Q) Has the Arab League intervened to help remedy the stumbling of efforts to form an Iraqi government?

A) There is no intervention, but contacts and consultations are held through the league mission to support the political process.

Q) It was recently reported that Syria would host a meeting between the Iraqi political blocs to help the formation of a government, with the assistance of the Arab League. It was meant to keep the plan secret, but the dialogue suddenly stumbled. How true is this?

A) The idea was in fact put forward, but it was mostly reported by the media and no adequate preparations were made for it. The reason is that the plan required the agreement of all the parties and this did not happen because, an Iraqi government should be formed in Baghdad in our view, not abroad. I mean not in Iran or Washington. This is an Iraqi decision and an Iraqi issue. Thus, the idea was broached by the media, failed to produce anything, and came to an end.

Q) What was the aim of this idea on which the media focused?

A) One of the points was that the political leaders have failed to form a government, and that it was interesting to look for a place for dialogue and an equitable and fair side [to help]. Certain Iraqi sides have put forward this alternative, but it did not materialize.

Iraqi Democrats Against Occupation's Sabah Jawad offers (at, "We can now see what has been created in Iraq, because as a result of it, six months after the elections that took place last March, Iraqi parties participating in the political process are still unable even to agree on a Prime Minister. For the past six months they've been fighting and threatening each-other. We've seen a new parliament elected in March where the 335 members of parliament, the most highly paid MPs in the entire world, have only had one meeting lasting 20 minutes in the past 6 months, and this was actually only to declare that they are going to leave this session open indefinitely until the political parties and blocks reach an agreement on who is going to be Prime Minister!"

Meanwhile YouTube wants your questions. YouTube's Olivia Ma posts the following at the Official Google Blog:

There is perhaps no other country in the world that has undergone more change or been under more scrutiny in the past decade than Iraq. The draw-down of U.S. troops and a recent election that has yet to produce a formal government have left Iraq in a state of flux. The country’s destiny has implications not just for the Arab world, but for the world at large.

That’s why, in partnership with the Arabic-language television network, Al Arabiya, we’re launching “Iraq Looks Forward,” a series of interviews on YouTube in which Iraqi leaders answer your questions about the future of the country. This is your chance to engage directly with top Iraqi officials, so visit to submit your questions and vote on which you think should be asked.

A selection of the top-voted questions will be posted to sitting Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan region of Iraq, Barham Salih, and others.

The deadline for submitting questions is Monday, September 27.

In the US, the Democratic Policy Committee has this video with Senator Carl Levin on the issue of the Defense Authorization Bill (the bill did not pass yesterday -- the video is from before the vote):

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