Of players and spectators

August 3, 2010

Allawi, Maliki and the other blocs are in a game. Allawi is making the best decision he can, holding on to what he believes is his right to form the government. Any move he makes must take into account Maliki’s fight to become the new Shia bloc’s candidate for PM; as well as the decision of the other blocs to stay out of this conflict.
On the other hand, Maliki is also making the best decision he can, insisting on leading the formation of the government. His strategy is taking into account Allawi’s intention to be the PM and the other blocs’ intention to stay out of this conflict.
The other blocs are making the best decision they can, staying out of the conflict, taking into account the decisions of both Maliki and Allawi. They say one of them would eventually be the PM and we would then support whoever is chosen.
In game theory this stalemate is called the Nash equilibrium. In 1994, John Nash won the Nobel Prize of economics for a theory he derived about peoples’ decisions when interacting with others.
Nash equilibrium is a concept of a game involving two or more players, in which each player is assumed to know the strategies of the other players, and no player has anything to gain by changing only his or her own strategy unilaterally.
This seems to be the case in Iraq today – but it need not remain this way.
While Allawi and Maliki have no other choice but to stick to their positions and hence keep the equilibrium, the others, including the Kurds may have an interest in breaking it.
While all the attention is on the two big blocs or the two big names, Maliki and Allawi, the other blocs can have a significant role and can truly be the kingmakers.
So far, the smaller groups have decided on being neutral in the conflict and waiting for a winner.
This may be a sound policy if the conflict is short-lived or relatively superficial.
Not so in Iraq. As the conflict between the two blocs intensifies, those who have kept outside it may run the risk of becoming irrelevant to its settlement.
If a given bloc outside the two main conflicting ones decides to break the stalemate by supporting one of the two lists, they could well tip the balance in favour of their preferred choice, get whatever commitments they want from it and be key players in the political scene.
Given the mathematics of the parliament, even if the preferred option of the smaller bloc did not get the premiership, there would be a political price to be extracted for switching alliances and getting whatever they want from the other side.
The Kurds and other blocs have a true opportunity to be the kingmakers again. They should take the lead and break the deadlock by putting their 60 seat weight behind their preferred choice and get the ball rolling
In situations of conflict, those who stay in the middle or outside gradually become spectators.
And usually, spectators in matches do not get anything at the end.

    Facebook says:

    well, in my view, the Kingmaking role is no more beneficial for the Kurds, since no Arabic political bloc is ready to keep the pledges they give to the Kurds. In contrary, I think it's the best time to what the Kurds have never done in last 7 years – trying to deepen the deadlock, and even platforming for an armed conflict between the two blocs. this is the only realistic way to strengthen the Kurdish leverage in Iraq, at least to win Kirkuk and other disputed areas, in my view.
    thanks, your piece is well-said.

    follow me
    mail me