Let the Post Election Horse Trading Begin

The Sunni Muslim politicians of Iraq are of the same mind. But within the major Sunni Muslim blocs there are some conflicts. For example, the Sunni Muslim parties with the most seats – respectively, Nujaifi and al-Mutlaq – may find it hard to convince Allawi’s group to join them because the latter feels the former betrayed him after the 2010 elections, by leaving to form their own parties, affectively splitting the Sunni Muslim bloc. Additionally al-Mutlaq is considered by many Sunnis to be too close to al-Maliki.

So what will happen next? And how will these various and troubled political groupings choose Iraq’s next Prime Minister?

It’s going to be tough. For one thing, al-Maliki’s State of Law seems to consider their 92 seats enough of a victory to push for al-Maliki’s next term as Prime Minister. There is also talk that all of the anti-al-Maliki parties may get together to ensure that al-Maliki is removed from power – that would mean a cross-sectarian, cross-ethnic coalition united in one desire. And apparently there have been talks between the various players about this possibility, and about the potential to elect a leader from al-Hakim’s Citizen bloc. However it would still be difficult to achieve this because it ignores State of Law’s 92 seats, not to mention what one Iraq expert describes as the “psychological quantum leap” it will require of all of the players.

Another scenario involves nominating someone from al-Maliki’s own State of Law party to replace him, someone who is acceptable to al-Maliki’s foes but who is also close to the Prime Minister.

Another factor that may further complicate things is the prospect of intervention from outside Iraq. After 2010, US troops and diplomats were considered an important neutral element that acted as a buffer between all parties. And it is also clear that both Iran and the US had a lot to do with negotiations that eventually secured al-Maliki his second term.

Whatever happens, the only winners at the moment are likely to be the gamblers of Iraq; because they’ll probably be winning bets on how long it takes to form a government for months to come.

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