Erbil’s Majority and Baghdad’s Partnership

April 26, 2011

Those who follow the situation and political developments in Iraq are getting quite baffled in their search for the best possible formula to rule the country – neither Erbil’s majority nor Baghdad’s partnership governments seem to be working.

In Baghdad, the word “failure” is almost becoming the trademark of the governmental and political performance. According to many observers and partners in government, the main reason for this is because it is a government of national partnership, previously called national unity.

The two governments, national unity and national partnership have many similarities, but the main point in common between the two is that each participating party in government blames the others for the failure at a time when the country’s development, provision of services and eradication of corruption remains static.

Naming the security ministers, naming the vice-presidents, national reconciliation, the council of ministers’ bylaw, taking concrete steps to tackle corruption and many more issues remain unresolved because they need to have the agreement of all partners over all issues.

This endless cycle is ongoing and every now and then we get a new issue that proves the failure of this formula in ruling the country because it is simply an extension of the quota system that can not move anything and the past few years proved that.

As a logical consequence of this argument, an observer may think that a majority government is better than a partnership one. But looking at the situation in the Iraqi Kurdistan region, one can see all the reasons of failure there, too.

The lack of agreement between the government and opposition over the main issues such as the future of the region, some of the fundamental laws, the constitution and other issues have all contributed to the situation in Sulaimani today.

This is in addition to the imbalanced majority government that has the KDP with the majority of votes in Erbil and Dohuk and the PUK that came second after Gorran in Sulaimani.

The latest development in Sulaimani adds another evidence to the inability of majority governments to deal with crisis in an adequate way. This is especially true when the junior partner is exclusively ruling an area where it has received the minority vote. Even more so, the Prime Minister of the joint government is also the candidate of the junior partner.

According to many analysts and observers, this setup contributed to a greater disconnect between the authorities and the people and left the door open for the opposition groups that jointly have the majority of Sulaimani’s votes to have the initiative and always be a step ahead.

Looking at the unsuccessful Kurdish model of majority rule, one can see that this model is based on a partnership agreement between the two parties (KDP & PUK) when they had equal power, but today and with the quiet admissions of many in the KDP leadership, the junior partner is becoming a “burden” on the KDP. This could also change in the next election.

As a result, anyone who is looking for an appropriate solution to rule Iraq would be quite confused, because neither Erbil’s majority nor Baghdad’d partnership seem to be working. And the main reason is because they both stem from fear; the Shia’s fear of the past, the Sunni fear of the future and the Kurds’ fear of both brings things back to the “quota” system and from there to “consensus”, then to “national unity” and now to “partnership.”

We could continue forever about the failure of the models of majority and partnership rule. But the real reason is the lack of a real technocratic government that runs the affair of the state in a professional manner away from politicizing and quota. A government like this would only emerge if there were true institutions of governance that can produce real professionals who are able to lead the country.

    A contribution to this debate:
    Saturday 28th, 7.15PM, ARTE French-German TV will broadcast the film we made in Baghdad and Sulaimaniyah on this question.

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