New Shia bloc: deadlock or breakthrough

June 18, 2010

The new shia bloc formed recently brings good news and bad news to other blocs and to the political process.
it further adds a new complication to the ongoing issue of naming the pm.
It brings good news to the kurds because they cease to be the fourth bloc in parliament and they would be dealt with as a component of the Iraqi society.
This will strengthen their standing in parliament because they would not be seen for their seat numbers when it comes to the naming of the PM their consent to the next pm would have to be a condition.
The bad news for them is that they would be stuck between Iran and the Arab world.
One of the key issues on the agenda for the kurds over the next four years is the disputed areas and they are controlled by al-Iraqiya.
They would be stuck between history and geography. Historically and politically, they would have an easier deal with the Shia blocs, or bloc. But their geographic proximity to areas dominated by al-Iraqiya would make it difficult for them to strike a strong deal with the Shia only.
So their choice of naming the PM will strongly be influenced by the relationship between Al-Iraqiya and the shia bloc.
As for the Shia bloc, their unification seems to be a good step in the direction of keeping the premiership with the Shias, but it is strongly undermined by their internal differences and their external pressure mostly from Iran to stay united.
Their differences stem mostly from the fact that they are not united over the name of the next pm and the fact that each group of them has a different option of who from the Sunnis they should ally with outside the bloc.
By unifying they took the first step of undoing what the new election law was about. It was intended to break the sectarian and ethnic nature of voting in Iraq. But putting all the shia in one group proves that the political process of Iraq is still far from being based on real political issues. It is still very much divided along sectarian and ethnic lines.
Although the unification makes them the biggest player, it also makes it more difficult for them to ally themselves with just on of the two other blocs, Al-Iraqiya and the kurds. Since they opted for the shia identity to be in one group , they have to chose both, the Kurds and the Sunni Arabs as partners.
Since national politics in the country is still ethnic and sectarian, all three main components need to be running the affairs of the country.
As for Iraqiya, tacitly they are split. Those who want a position in the next government are not so keen for Allawi to become a PM. Because, if he is appointed as PM, they would lose some strong ministries for that position.
Allawi himself seems to settle for nothing less than the PM post.
The formation of the new Shia bloc provides them with the assurances that they would not be ousted but it also send allawi the bad news of losing his chance to form the next government.
In short, the formation of the new shia group presents every one with two options to ally with. Each one of the choices is not viable on its own. Given all the challenges and the tasks that lie ahead, the only way forward is to form a national unity government.
But the stumbling block still is the name of the pm. It is obvious that it would be a Shia, but the two other lists would be better of with a weak compromise candidate to be appointed. It could even be good for a better federal system of the country.

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