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March 26, 2010

Whither Maliki?
Posted by Michael Wahid Hanna

I have a new piece over at Foreign Policy's Middle East Channel discussing today's announcement of official election results in Baghdad. While Allawi's narrow victory represents a major political realignment, he is far from assured of being selected as the prime minister-designate, and I believe the process itself will largely be driven by attitudes toward al-Maliki:

Former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's electoral list narrowly edged the incumbent Prime Minister Nuri Maliki's State of Law alliance in the official (but uncertified) results of the March 7 elections announced today. The horse-trading and deal-making which will produce a new government will now accelerate. But to a very large extent, a little-noticed Federal Supreme Court decision yesterday drained the drama from today's announcement. Despite Allawi's winning two more seats than his rival, he may not get the chance to form a government. Allawi's chances of becoming Iraq's Prime minister will hinge largely on the question of how much Maliki's Shiite rivals really hate him...and how loyal his political allies will be if their Shiite co-religionists make his exit a condition to forming a government.

The performance of Allawi and his Iraqiyya list's performance represent a major, even stunning political realignment. But the Iraqi Supreme Court's ruling yesterday means that contrary to general belief, he is not guaranteed the first opportunity to form a government. The ruling hinges on the interpretation of Article 76 of the Iraqi constitution, which mandates that the new president authorize a prime minister-designate representing the largest parliamentary bloc to attempt to form a government. There has been some controversy over what this meant in practice. The Federal Supreme Court interpreted the clause broadly and decided that "largest parliamentary bloc" referred to any parliamentary bloc in existence at the time when the president makes his designation -- not to the lists which contested the election. If the court had ruled narrowly, then the razor-thin difference in seats would have had profound effects. As it stands, Maliki and Allawi now enter this next phase of horse-trading basically even.


You can read the whole thing here.

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I would like to say one thing that Allawi's performance is not only a major political realignment, but also a striking victory for Saudi Arabia in its continuing cold struggle with Iran. The Saudis have been Allawi's major patron since he left the Prime Minster's office, and Allawi owes much of his success in rallying the Sunni vote to their diplomatic weight and regional media machine....

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