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. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
There are numerous reasons to try to make an update on exactly how many deputies each of the main political blocs in the Iraqi parliament really controls. Subsequent to the resumption of meaningful parliamentary business in November 2010 – 8 months after the parliamentary elections in March that year – the Iraqi national assembly has seen a string of replacements of candidates for a variety of reasons, as well as cases of very public defections from some of the biggest entities in parliament. With a showdown about the annual budget right around the corner, it makes sense to take stock of the new political balance.
It would be prudent to preface any analysis on this subject with a warning about the intrinsically inexact nature of this kind of science. This is so for several reasons. Firstly, Iraqi political blocs change all the time. There is no formal procedure governing this. If a MP wants to, at any time s/he can decide that it is time to seek greener pastures, jump ship and declare a new parliamentary bloc (kutla). Further complicating the analysis is the fact that, probably due to general hubris as well as the irrepressible desire of most Iraqi politicians to call themselves rais of something (“president”), many blocs insist on maintaining sub-bloc divisions – even if this practice in theory negates the principle underlying Iraqi parliamentary theory of the biggest bloc nominating the premier. If the National Alliance is the biggest bloc, how can it at the same time contain identifiable sub-blocs like State of Law, the Sadrists and Fadila? The contradiction is more pronounced in Arabic where everything is called kutla (why not at least adopt something similar to Arabic tribal terminology which beautifully expresses organizational hierarchy?)