Will Abadi have a Role in Forming New Govt?

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

On June 21, Iraq's Supreme Federal Court ruled that parliament's decision to cancel the votes of Iraqis living abroad, displaced people and members of the peshmerga forces was unconstitutional. The results of the elections are expected to remain as they are, and the formation of the next government is supposed to pick up speed in light of this recent judicial ruling.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, the leader of al-Nasr coalition, expressed his intent to host the leaders of the winning blocs before the end of this month to discuss the paths of forming the next government and outline the next phase.

“We launched a national initiative before Eid al-Fitr [June 15] for a broad national meeting that includes all political blocs to agree on the state administration programs, not just the government,” he said at a press conference on June 20.

He explained that the national consensus aims to speed up the proper formation of state institutions after the elections, noting, “Political blocs welcomed our national meeting initiative with arms wide open.”

Abadi called on “political blocs to cooperate to form an operation room, or as we call it, a preparatory committee to lay the foundations of any political agreement to set the next government program.”

Spokesman for al-Nasr coalition Hussein al-Adli told Al-Monitor, “We called on all bloc leaders who won in the recent elections to meet before the end of this month so we can all agree on the process of forming the government and general frameworks regarding state affairs, so as to avoid a constitutional vacuum.”

He added, “Al-Nasr coalition has not yet identified its direction when it comes to [potential] alliances, nor do we believe that the largest bloc, which is constitutionally mandated to form a government, has been formed yet.”

Adli pointed out that “Abadi would rather hold discussions with all blocs directly and collectively and draw out the upcoming phase, based on results of the elections.”

On June 12, Muqtada al-Sadr, the leader of the Sadrist movement and the Sairoon Alliance that won 54 seats in the recent elections, announced that it was allying with Fatah, a bloc led by Hadi al-Amiri that won 47 seats. This new alliance aims to form the largest parliamentary bloc.

According to a source from al-Hikma bloc, which secured 19 seats and is led by Ammar al-Hakim, the Shiite blocs have yet to confirm that they will attend Abadi’s national meeting.

The source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “Abadi tried to convince the Shiite blocs to attend, but they are not having it. They do not see why there needs to be a meeting before naming the new prime minister during parliament’s first session to discuss the next government.”

The source said, “Abadi will fail to hold this meeting unless he forms an alliance able to compete against the Fatah-Sairoon alliance.”

The Shiite lists believe that Abadi is trying to get around the idea of “the largest blocs,” after failing to ally with Sadr and Amiri. He has not yet decided whether he is staying or withdrawing from al-Dawa party, headed by Nouri al-Maliki, the leader of the State Law Coalition, with 25 seats.

Meanwhile, Maliki said he would participate only “if all forces attend the meeting and everyone commits to hard work to reach solutions to the serious crises plaguing the country.” However, a statement published by Maliki’s press office on June 16 announced that he will be attending.

The Sairoon Alliance decided to only attend if “Abadi sends a written invitation, not only calls on political blocs though the media.”

On the other hand, Kurdish and Sunni forces were pleased with Abadi’s initiative and confirmed their attendance.

On June 15, the National Forces Alliance, which includes the majority of Sunni blocs in parliament, issued a statement, saying, “We welcome Abadi’s initiative and we believe this is a step in the right direction toward an all-embracing national project.”

Leader of the Iraqi Decision Alliance, Ahmed al-Massari, told Al-Monitor that his alliance “supports dialogue between the winning lists for the purpose of solving the country’s many crises,” noting that his bloc “believes Abadi’s initiative is not limited to discussing the formation of the largest bloc, but also aims at setting a national program of action, regardless of sectarian differences.”

The coming days will reveal to what extent Abadi’s initiative can contribute to overcoming differences and discussing the future of the country while steering clear from the “largest bloc” project. This initiative is no more than a political “tactic” through which Abadi is trying to include Sunni and Kurdish blocs in the process of choosing the new prime minister.

This way, he might be able to make up for his inability to find a good parliamentary majority that guarantees him a second term. So far, no other Shiite alliance has as many members as the Sadr-Amiri alliance.

The broad acclaim Abadi's initiative received among Kurdish and Sunni blocs indicates their desire to have a new prime minister, agreed upon by all forces instead of one imposed by the largest bloc. At the same time, the Kurdish and Sunni blocs do not necessarily want rapprochement with a Shiite bloc.

The true advantage of holding Abadi’s meeting is to spare the country from having a constitutional vacuum, hold the new parliament’s first session early next month and put an end to Abadi’s own “caretaker” government.

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