Maliki will also push to splinter Sunni Arab components away from Iraqiyyah and to pull in smaller Sunni and cross-sectarian parties like Tawafoq and Unity of Iraq. Maliki’s need to woo such groups is a reminder that Iraqi politics is not just a numbers game: there are also important intangible commodities at play such as the need to make at least a token effort to develop ethno-sectarian diversity and consensus in the government. Though Iyad Allawi might struggle to work within a Maliki-led government, many of the sub-components of Iraqiyyah do have a breaking point and could conceivably answer Maliki’s siren call to join the government for the sake of “national unity” (and some ministerial appointments).
In other words, Maliki now has to start the complex and uncertain process of forming a government, almost seven months after election day. As an analyst who speaks to Iraqi politicians every week, it is my sad duty to relay that almost no pre-negotiation has been undertaken and the process is practically starting from scratch.
Future twists and turns
It would be tempting to imagine that the process of government formation will now be linear and rapid, but that would probably be over-optimistic. The government formation process may still throw up more than one surprise and could last for many months.