By John Lee.
Meeting an extended deadline, Iraqi President Fouad Massoum has nominated a PM from the State of Law bloc, the largest coalition which therefore has the constitutional right to name the next Iraqi PM.
But it was not Nouri-al-Maliki. Observers are now waiting to see what action, if any, Maliki might take to hold onto power. So far, MPs loyal to Maliki have alleged that the nomination of Haider al-Abadi (pictured) amounts to betrayal, and there has been talk of taking legal action.
Critically, The Washington Post has reported that it may have been Maliki’s fiery speech on Sunday night which turned what was an increasing defection against the PM into a full scale political rebellion.
However, this may not be the last of it. Rumours have circulated that Maliki has attempted to secure key government infrastructure with loyalist Iraqi forces, although former foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari and US officials have indicated they are not expecting anything resembling a coup d’etat.
Maliki has faced what appears to have been a slowly building political rebellion over his handling of the recent crisis (and to many, the culmination of his confrontational style in recent years). He is now experiencing what amounts to an informal vote of no confidence.
In his place is Haider al-Abadi, a politician who received his doctorate in electronic engineering at Manchester University, England. As expected, he is from Maliki’s Dawa party and has a long service in the new Iraqi government behind him, having been an adviser to Maliki, the head of the parliamentary finance committee and the deputy speaker of parliament.
Abadi is an interesting choice, and has spoken in more moderate terms on a number of issues when compared to Maliki, conveying a more conciliatory tone towards both Sunnis (during the prolonged protests) and Kurds (regarding the oil dispute).
He also has extensive business experience garnered during his time with the Iraqi opposition in London, and has gone on record a number of times to speak about challenges facing Iraq including sectarianism and increasing the role of the private sector.
Crucially for Iraq at the current time, if Abadi can counter worsening sectarian relations and assure “fence sitting” Sunnis who have not yet joined the insurgency, the US may feel more confident extending military support to Iraq, something which could be of vital importance in defending critical infrastructure.
In foreign relations, Abadi will likely pursue a similar path to Maliki, keeping bridges with both Iran and the West, China and Russia.
However, Abadi faces two quite significant challenges, firstly putting together a new Iraqi cabinet in an increasingly fractured political scene, and secondly building national unity to fight the ongoing ISIS onslaught.
(Source: Various news agencies)