Thursday, November 25, 2010

Nouri 'officially' named prime minister-designate

Today, wink-wink, Nouri al-Maliki became the prime minister-designate 'officially.' Who handles it the most poorly? Al Jazeera.

Proof: "Iraq PM sworn in for second term."

Uh, no, he's not prime minister. He is, per the country's Constitution (Article 76), prime minister-designate. The article itself isn't a problem as you get closer and closer to the end of it but few will make it that far in and the headline has already distorted reality.

Per Article 76, Nouri now has 30 days to name a Cabinet of Ministers and have each Minister confirmed -- individually, not as a group -- by the Parliament. To get the backing required to overturn the people's will, Nouri had to promise a lot of people cabinet positions. Some posts were more popular than others leading him to promise them to multiple people. But each ministry can only have one head and now he's got the difficult task of deciding which promises to honor and which to discard. The next thirty days should be interesting for him. Never doubt Nouri's ability to make more enemies.

The most important section of Al Jazeera's report is this:

Jane Arraf, Al Jazeera's correspondent reporting from Baghdad, said the swearing-in ceremony will "set the clock ticking for al-Maliki" to build a "balanced government".
"He has an extremely difficult task ahead of him, these next 30 days are going to be a very tough sell for all of these parties that all want something very important in this government," she said.
"It took a record eight months to actually come up with this coalition, but now what al-Maliki has to do is put all those people in the competing positions that backed him into slots in the government and he has a month to do that from today."

March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted in August, "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. November 10th a power sharing deal resulted in the Parliament meeting for the second time and voting in a Speaker. And then Iraqiya felt double crossed on the deal and the bulk of their members stormed out of the Parliament. David Ignatius (Washington Post) explains, "The fragility of the coalition was dramatically obvious Thursday as members of the Iraqiya party, which represents Sunnis, walked out of Parliament, claiming that they were already being double-crossed by Maliki. Iraqi politics is always an exercise in brinkmanship, and the compromises unfortunately remain of the save-your-neck variety, rather than reflecting a deeper accord. " After that, Jalal Talabani was voted President of Iraq. Talabani then named Nouri as the prime minister-delegate. If Nouri can meet the conditions outlined in Article 76 of the Constitution (basically nominate ministers for each council and have Parliament vote to approve each one with a minimum of 163 votes each time and to vote for his council program) within thirty days, he becomes the prime minister. If not, Talabani must name another prime minister-delegate. . In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister-delegate. It took eight months and two days to name Nouri as prime minister-delegate. His first go-round, on April 22, 2006, his thirty day limit kicked in. May 20, 2006, he announced his cabinet -- sort of. Sort of because he didn't nominate a Minister of Defense, a Minister of Interior and a Minister of a National Security. This was accomplished, John F. Burns wrote in "For Some, a Last, Best Hope for U.S. Efforts in Iraq" (New York Times), only with "muscular" assistance from the Bush White House. Nouri declared he would be the Interior Ministry temporarily. Temporarily lasted until June 8, 2006. This was when the US was able to strong-arm, when they'd knocked out the other choice for prime minister (Ibrahim al-Jaafari) to install puppet Nouri and when they had over 100,000 troops on the ground in Iraq. Nouri had no competition. That's very different from today. The Constitution is very clear and it is doubtful his opponents -- including within his own alliance -- will look the other way if he can't fill all the posts in 30 days. As Leila Fadel (Washington Post) observes, "With the three top slots resolved, Maliki will now begin to distribute ministries and other top jobs, a process that has the potential to be as divisive as the initial phase of government formation." Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) points out, "Maliki now has 30 days to decide on cabinet posts - some of which will likely go to Iraqiya - and put together a full government. His governing coalition owes part of its existence to followers of hard-line cleric Muqtada al Sadr, leading Sunnis and others to believe that his government will be indebted to Iran." The stalemate ends when the country has a prime minister. It is now eight months, seventeen days and counting. And today Nouri got 'officially' named prime minister-designate. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) points out, "In 30 days, he is to present his cabinet to parliament or lose the nomination."

Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) explains
, "Even if Mr. Maliki meets the 30-day deadline in late December -- which is not a certainty, given the chronic disregard for legal deadlines in Iraqi politics -- the country will have spent more than nine months under a caretaker government without a functioning legislature. Many of Iraq's most critical needs -- from basic services to investment -- have remained unaddressed throughout the impasse."

Leila Fadel and Steven Lee Myers author strong reports. As people rush to copy -- few US reporters are in Iraq anymore -- they'd do well to crib from those two.

Violence continues. Reuters notes a Samarra roadside bombing which injured "police officer Nabeel Abbas Ashraf, head of the Huwaish police station, and two of his body guards," 2 Tuz Khurmato roadside bombing which injured two children and four Iraqi soldiers, another Tuz Khurmato roadside bombing which injured a police officer, a Baghdad roadside bombing which wounded three people (including one Iraqi soldier) and a Baaj grenade attack claimed the life of 1 tailor.

The following community sites -- plus Tavis, L Studio and -- updated last night and this morning:

Kat's plan is two reviews up here today. The first goes up after this. This is one of two entries on Iraq today. The other will be "I Hate The War" tonight. Should news out of Iraq demand a snapshot, there will be one.

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oh boy it never ends