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Sadrists hint at a merger with State of Law


March 30, 2010 - Iyad Allawi's Iraqiyya coalition may have won the most seats in this month's Iraqi election -- but increasingly it looks like prime minister Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law coalition will form the next government, even if Maliki himself loses his job...Sources close to the Tehran talks say the Sadrist movement is willing to integrate with State of Law if Maliki is not the prime minister, and offered Qusay as-Suhail [a Sadrist MP] as a possible head of the next government...

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Sadrists hint at a merger with State of Law

Gregg Carlstrom

March 30, 2010

Iyad Allawi's Iraqiyya coalition may have won the most seats in this month's Iraqi election -- but increasingly it looks like prime minister Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law coalition will form the next government, even if Maliki himself loses his job.

Iraq's political parties spent the weekend in feverish negotiations, which seem to be running along two separate tracks. The first is being conducted in Tehran and Najaf, where Maliki's bloc is meeting with the Iraqi National Alliance; a merger between those two would put Maliki within six seats of holding a majority in parliament.

Much of the INA -- particularly the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, which fared quite poorly in the election -- seems amenable to joining Maliki. But the Sadrist movement is not: Moqtada's party (with 39 seats in parliament) will only merge with State of Law if Maliki doesn't get the prime minister's job, according to Al-Rafidayn, which speculates that Iraqi finance minister Baqir Jabr al-Zubaidi could be a contender for the top job (عربي). Rough translation:

Sources close to the Tehran talks say the Sadrist movement is willing to integrate with State of Law if Maliki is not the prime minister, and offered Qusay as-Suhail [a Sadrist MP] as a possible head of the next government. Baqir Jabr al-Zubaidi is also a leading candidate to head the next government... Adel Abdul-Mahdi will likely retain his position as vice president, if president Jalal Talabani's term is renewed. Zubaidi, who lived in Damascus for several years before the overthrow of the former regime, and who visited Riyadh during his term as finance minister, could rebuild Iraq's relations with neighboring Arab countries, and reduce the isolation caused by Maliki, who has caused tensions with Damascus and Riyadh as well as with Tehran.

Az-Zaman also throws out Zubaidi's name (عربي) as a possible PM candidate. Maliki's people are also talking with Kurdish parties (عربي), which would put them above the 163-seat threshold to form a government. The Kurdish parties seemed mildly optimistic (عربي) about the outcome of those meetings.

Maliki also continues to demand a recount, even going so far as to criticize the United Nations for not supporting that demand (though he's since backtracked on that criticism).

Iraqiyya's uphill battle

Allawi, meanwhile, is talking with Kurdish parties, and also with smaller blocs like Tawafuq (once Iraq's most prominent Sunni party) and the Iraqi Unity alliance. None of those talks have produced concrete results, though, and Allawi will likely face resistance from Kurdish parties worried about the anti-Kurdish positions of some Iraqiyya members.

The former prime minister is also on a bit of a media blitz, telling Al-Sharq Al-Awsat he's worried about the negotiations in Tehran (عربي) and the New York Times that he's not a closet Ba'athist.

The Ba'athist issue has indeed raised its head once again: Ali Faysal al-Lami, the head of the Justice and Accountability Commission, filed a complaint against six people who won parliamentary seats, including (reportedly) three members of Iraqiyya. If Lami's complaint is upheld, those candidates could be disqualified -- a significant loss for Allawi, considering his razor-thin margin of victory.

Michael Hanna predicts that Allawi's chances of becoming prime minister rest largely on external factors -- on "how much Maliki's Shi'ite rivals really hate him." That seems an accurate analysis: If State of Law merges with the INA, Allawi's chances of forming a government are virtually zero; his best hope is that internal disputes between the Sadrists and State of Law prevent those two blocs from merging.



:: Article nr. 64649 sent on 30-mar-2010 19:23 ECT

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Link: www.themajlis.org/2010/03/30/sadrists-hint-at-a-merger-with-state-of-law



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