Rivals may Team Up to Defeat Abadi

By Mustafa Saadoun for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News. 

Rivals may Team Up to Defeat Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi

Two former adversaries appear to be warming up to each other to collaborate in Iraq's presidential and parliamentary elections set for May — possibly at the expense of the nation's top politician.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi now faces a potential rapprochement between two of his rivals: Vice President Nouri al-Maliki and Massoud Barzani. Maliki is the current leader of the Islamic Dawa Party, and Barzani is head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and former president of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

No one actually expected a rapprochement between Maliki and Barzani. However, their need to achieve their targets in the upcoming elections and to tame Abadi pushed both rivals to bridge the gap that opened between them in 2010 and lasted through 2017.

The last time Maliki and Barzani agreed on anything was when all political coalitions decided to renew Maliki's four-year term as prime minister in 2010.

On Dec. 23, during an interview with Kurdish media outlet Rudaw (which is funded by Barzani's nephew), Maliki said, "Punishing Kurdish people in order to get more votes in elections is shameful, unethical, non-patriotic and illegitimate." He was referring to the Abadi government's continued refusal to pay wages to the employees of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region. It was actually Maliki who introduced the pay sanction during his tenure as prime minister over an oil dispute.

Barzani's KDP has changed its discourse toward Maliki since the latter made that statement. Maliki is no longer blamed for the "starvation" of Kurdish people or for working against the KRG. Statements describing him as harsher on Kurds than Saddam Hussein — as Barzani said in August — are no longer heard. In fact, some KDP leaders are now saying that Maliki wants to resolve the conflict between the central government in Baghdad and the KRG in Erbil.

One of the deputies of the Dawa Party told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that Maliki is discussing whether the rapprochement with the KDP would become an actual alliance and how such an alliance might affect the future of the Dawa Party's candidates in leading the next government.

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