Sadr's idea to form a majority government in Iraq is problematic, expert tells Kurdpress
Sadr-Barzani-Halbousi coalition's idea in forming a majority government in Iraq is problematic both in theoretical and practical ways. The tripartite coalition has the majority of seats, but it still can’t move forward, Dr. Muhammad Ali Waeli, an Iraq affairs' expert told Kurdpress about the current political stalemate in Iraq and the Sadr-led coalition's insistence on forming a majority government.

Sadris Leader Muqtada al-Sadr, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP or PDK) Leader Masoud Barzani and Mohamed al-Halbousi who is the current Iraqi Parliament Speaker and the leader of Progress Party have formed a coalition and are seeking to form a tripartite majority government in Iraq.

About six months have passed since Iraq's parliamentary elections, but neither the president nor the prime minister have been appointed by lawmakers. The reason behind the situation is the disagreement of the Iraqi political movements on how to form a government and elect the president. The Sadr-Barzani-Halbousi coalition believes in forming a majority government, but groups such as Coordination Fremework, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and several other Kurdish parties in Iraq are pushing for a national and inclusive government.


Sadr-Barzani-Halbousi coalition and forming the new Iraqi government

About the formation of a government in Iraq by the coalition, Dr. Waeli told Kurdpress "I believe that the idea of such a coalition is problematic both in theoretical and practical ways. The tripartite coalition has the majority of seats, but it still can’t move forward."

"First, theoretically the coalition is supposed to be different from previous coalitions that lead to government formation. But if you look at it, it still contains Kurds, Sunni, and Shia. The difference now is that it aims to exclude important players in the Kurdish and Shia communities. In other words, it is still Muhasasa, only limited to a subset of the Iraqi political community which will eventually lead to an unstable government," he further said about the coalition and its plan to form a government in Iraq.

"The PDK, which politically dominates Iraqi Kurdistan wants to sideline the PUK, which is dominant on the ground in Sulimaniya and Halabja," Dr. Waeli said about the tension between the Kurdish parties in Iraqi Kurdistan.

"Sadr wants to sideline all other Shia parties. But again, the rest of the Shia parties together form a formidable force on the ground, given that the Iraqi parliament does not necessarily reflect that due to the limitations of Iraq’s new election law," he further said about the situation in Iraq, adding that "only the Sunnis have a unified front at the moment, but there are no guarantees that the coalition won’t break down in the near future and if it does, then Halbousi will probably come out as the stronger player."

"Therefore, on a practical basis the coalition isn’t capable of moving forward. And the intention is to ignore large political forces on the ground is not realistic," he said about how practical in the coalition's plan in forming a majority government in the current situation in Iraq.


The Iraqi federal court's decisions regarding Kurdistan oil activities

Dr Waeli stated that "the court’s decision came at a very crucial time that has big political and economic impacts on the Kurdish oil activities. On one hand, it makes the environment for foreign investment in the region’s energy sector very challenging. International oil and gas companies want a stable legal environment and guarantees that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is able to pay what it owes. Though the court ruled that all oil and gas activities and finances are now tied to Baghdad. This legally paralyzed the KRG to do anything in this sector. If the KRG attempts to export and earn revenue without coordination with Baghdad, the companies that cooperate with them would risk law suits where Baghdad will have the upper hand."

He further added in this regard that "selling oil in the black market won’t be a sustainable option for the KRG, especially when most of the oil ends up in Israel.

The expert warned that the Kurdistan oil activities are "a big concern for the Iraqi government which is officially at war with Israel. The majority of the Iraqi people also reject any type of ties with Israel."

"Recently, Iraq’s Oil Ministry suggested the creation of the Kurdistan National Oil Company which will be supervised by the federal government. The Iraqi government also suggested the review and amendment of all oil and gas contracts signed by the KRG with foreign companies in order to make them comply with federal government laws and regulations," he went on to say.

Dr. Waeli stated that the best option for the Kurds over the oil issue is coming to terms with Baghdad and said "so far, there hasn’t been a positive response from the Kurdish side, but I don’t see any reasonable way forward other than reaching a legally sound and stable arrangement between Baghdad and Erbil to resolve this issue."


The failed attempts to elect the new president of Iraq

About the reasons behind the failure of Iraqi blocs and parties in electing a new president for Iraq, the political expert stated "there is no single factor or actors really."

"For the PUK, the position is essential for political survival, especially that it is increasingly losing power in the Kurdish region. Therefore, maintaining political leverage in Baghdad becomes even more essential. As for its nominee, it doesn’t really see a better candidate than Barham Salih who is experienced in Baghdad politics and maintains strong international ties. Also, not securing the presidency for Barham Salih risks his departure from PUK and the formation of a new party that competes with the PUK on its own turf, as it happened in 2018."

"The PDK on the other hand realizes the importance of having stronger representation in Baghdad. It will help in its quest to dominate the political scene in Iraqi Kurdistan on one hand, and will give it stronger presence in Baghdad on matters critical to the PDK on the other hand."

"The Coordination Framework (CF) which includes the major Shia political actors that are in disagreement with Sadr is also another player. CF supports PUK’s demands for the presidency in return for its support in other important matters, like any favorable candidates for the prime minister’s post," he said about the reason behind the PUK support for the Coordination Framework.

About the ties between parties in the Sadr-led coalition for electing the new Iraq president, the analyst told Kurdpress that "The Sadrist Movement (SM) on the other hand supports PDK’s demands, but not necessarily its choices of candidates. We saw this with Hoshyar Zebari where Sadr eventually withdrew his support after the big controversy his nomination caused in Baghdad. The Sunni coalition abstains from intervening directly in the presidency issue, but they support PDK’s candidates regardless of who they are."

"So as we see here, while PUK and PDK seem to be the direct subject of the presidency crisis, others also play important roles," Dr. Waeli said about the presidency crisis in Iraq.


The solution for the current political stalemate

About a solution to the current political stalemate in Iraq and the failure of the country's blocs and parties in forming a government, the expert stated that "no solution will be perfect. Iraqis ask for change, but it should be a move forward. The problem with the Sadr-Barzani-Halbousi approach is that it maintains Muhasasa, yet it doesn’t achieve inclusivity, one of the few justifications to adopt Muhasasa despite its many drawbacks. It’s clear from Sadr’s approach that he aims at undertaking radical political moves if he gains power, and this is not advisable in a country with delicate balances where disrupting them without reflection could easily lead to conflict."

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