The following article was published by Reidar Visser, an historian of Iraq educated at the University of Oxford and currently based at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs. It is reproduced here with the author’s permission. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
Totally out of the blue, and despite acrimonious exchanges between Iraqiyya and the State of Law bloc of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi parliament today voted to approve three deputies to President Jalal Talabani: Adel Abd al-Mahdi of ISCI, Tareq al-Hashemi of Iraqiyya, and Khudayr al-Khuzaie of State of Law.
This latest development must be characterised first and foremost as a triumph for Maliki. State of Law had been talking about three deputies as far back as in November 2010. Reactions from other parties against the State of Law candidate for filling one of the three posts, Khudayr al-Khuzaie, were sufficiently strong that some of them even proposed changing the number and criteria for electing the largely ceremonial vice-presidents: The Kurds, in particular, had invested much energy in demanding a single deputyship, to be filled by a Turkmen (and according to some, a female Turkmen.) But today, the three-person formula prevailed and Khuzaie was duly elected in the single vote that was held on the batch of deputies – again a victory for State of Law, which had insisted on this mechanism.
Exactly why Maliki was able to pull this off at this point remains unclear and the reactions from Iraqiyya have yet to materialise. Today’s parliament session was attended by 235 out of a total of 325 deputies. That same assembly also voted to sack Ayyad al-Kinani, who is thought to have Sadrist sympathies, from the independent electoral commission (IHEC). It is noteworthy that at least two Sadrist female deputies have criticised today’s vote. Conspiracy theorists will probably rush to mention the fact that the Iranian foreign minister is in town, posing smilingly with his Iraqi Kurdish counterpart.
Whatever the exact reason, the decision certainly signifies that Maliki is still able to get the decisions he wants in the Iraqi parliament, and probably gives him enhanced confidence when it comes to getting the security ministers confirmed. With the vice-presidential deputies confirmed and talk about the strategic policy council fading into the background, those ministries represent the final remaining issue in the government-formation process that started in November 2010.