The following article was published on Tuesday 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.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is getting frustrated with “national partnership” and power-sharing – again. His media statement today, timed to coincide with the end of the “100 days” announced by him in late February as a window for improving government performance, echoed similar remarks by him two years ago following his success in the local elections in January 2009. Back then, he became the first Iraqi politicians to craft a critique of the concept of an oversized national government unity. In Maliki’s view, a “political majority” cabinet – in which some groups would be deliberately left “outside the tent” – offered better prospects in terms of efficiency and governance.
Maliki’s specific point of criticism this time is that the “interference of the political blocs in the work of government” creates problems. Not only that, the interference is such that it constitutes “dictatorship in the guise of national partnership”! Today, he went on to say that the idea of national partnership is nice in theory but that it sometimes comes at the expense of effective government.
The problem in all of this is, firstly, that Maliki himself must shoulder considerable responsibility for the current situation. Back in November 2010 he agreed to chairing an oversized government and played a key role in making it really big, most recently by insisting on three vice-presidents in order to accommodate his own candidate (Khudayr al-Khuzaie). Secondly, his talk of a “political majority” is really a euphemism. Back in 2009 he explicitly talked about bringing together parties that shared a common vision of government, but in recent months he has explicitly referred to ethno-sectarian quotas (“the defence ministry is for the Sunnis”) and has made it clear that his “political majority” really means another tripartite ethno-religious compact – with the “Sunnis” represented through others than Iraqiyya (Wasat, White Iraqiyya and possibly breakaway elements of Iraqiyya).