Political Alliances Shift in Baghdad

By Mustafa al-Kadhimi for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

An alliance combining Shiite and Sunni currents in Baghdad succeeded last Saturday, June 15, in forming a local government without the participation of the State of Law Coalition. The latter was the largest winning bloc in the local elections held this past April. This step represents a development that will have major implications on the course of the political conflict in Iraq and the general election scheduled for 2014.

Despite the success of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law Coalition in obtaining 20 of 58 seats in Baghdad, the Al-Ahrar bloc, led by Muqtada al-Sadr, won 11 seats; the Sunni Mutahidoun block, led by Osama al-Nujaifi, obtained seven seats; the Citizen bloc obtained six seats and around 14 seats were distributed over other blocs and minority quotas. The way the seats were distributed allowed these forces to come together and form a government that excluded the biggest winner in the elections.

At first glance, it seems that this distribution, according to which the local government of Baghdad was formed on Saturday, is wide-ranging, inconsistent and incompatible at key points. It also seems that the State of Law Coalition will overcome its loss by trying to attract small blocs in the Baghdad Council to change the current government, a scenario that may be realized in the coming months. There is, however, another scenario that is more attainable, which involves the new alliance in Baghdad achieving greater harmony and making this experience a prelude to changing the political map in the general elections in 2014.

Not only does Baghdad have the largest population in Iraq (about 8 million), but its local government may have the means to tame the sectarian sensitivities, which are becoming more dangerous in Iraq and the region.

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