Talks over Iraqi government formation reach deadlock

"The Coordination Framework has two options: either full participation in the government or opposition."
Anti-government demonstration in Baghdad, 2019. (Photo: AFP)
Anti-government demonstration in Baghdad, 2019. (Photo: AFP)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Since the ratification of the October parliamentary elections by Iraq's Federal Supreme Court on Dec. 27, the major Iraqi political parties have been holding talks over the formation of the next Iraqi government. 

The major obstacle to forming a government is the rift between the Sadrist Movement, led by Muqtada al-Sadr, and the Shiite Coordination Framework, made-up of pro-Iran groups, such as former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law, Hadi Al-Amiri's Fatah Alliance, and Qais al-Khazali's Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq Movement. 

With the support of the leading Kurdish party, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), along with two leading Sunni blocs, Progress and Azm, Sadr has sought to form a national majority government. On the other hand, the Shiite Coordination Framework advocates another consensus government. 

Sadr, whose bloc won the most seats in the October elections, believes that his movement has the electoral confidence and power to create a majority government. 

Despite their electoral defeat, the Shiite Coordination Framework uses its influences within and beyond the government to ensure that a consensus government would include them. 

Sadr was in Baghdad on Thursday for the second round of meetings with the Framework leaders, seeking an agreement. 

Read More: Al-Sadr arrives in Baghdad for final, decisive meeting with Shiite bloc ahead of government formation

The first round of these meetings between Sadr and the Framework occurred in Najaf province, but no agreement was reached.

According to Kurdistan 24's correspondent in Baghdad, Thursday's meetings weren't fruitful. 

Meanwhile, Rafeeq Sallihi, the leading member of the Fatah Alliance, told the local press that his political alliance will continue making efforts to reach an agreement with Sadr before the next Iraqi parliament meeting. 

"The Coordination Framework has two options: either full participation in the government or opposition," Al-Khazali told a press conference last week.

Sadr continues to insist that the next Iraqi prime minister has to be nominated solely by his movement. In return, his movement will give several ministerial positions to parties in the Framework. 

On Thursday, the Iraqi parliament announced it had set Feb. 7 for a special session to elect the country's new president.

Read More: Parliament sets Feb. 7 as the date to elect new Iraqi President

The decision came during a meeting parliament speaker Mohamed al-Halbousi chaired with his deputies earlier in the day, a statement from the legislature said. The body would announce the presidential nominees on Jan. 31.

Hoshyar Zebari, the KDP's candidate for Iraq's presidency, has the best chance for the position, Muhaimin Al-Zamili, a Baghdad-based political observer, told Kurdistan 24's Baghdad correspondent Shivan Jabari on Saturday.

"Zebari has a long diplomatic experience, and he has very good relations with both the Sunnis and the Shiites," Al-Zamili said.

According to Jabari, Zebari has been able to guarantee more than half of the parliament members that he will make it to Iraq's presidency. 

"The Sunni parliament members will not vote for (the) Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) candidate because the PUK's parliament members didn't vote for Al-Halbousi," Mohammed Kahlawi, an Iraqi political analyst, told Kurdistan 24 on Saturday. "All the signals indicate that Zebari is the next Iraqi president."

Read More: 'Hoshyar Zebari will be the next President of Iraq': KDP official

The powers of Iraq's president are explained in Article 67 of the Iraqi constitution. A candidate for that position needs two-thirds of the parliament's votes. However, if no candidate obtains two-thirds of the votes, the voting will be repeated, and whoever gets the majority of the votes a second time will win the position. 

Since 2003, Iraq's parliamentary speaker has been Sunni, the prime minister Shia, and the president Kurdish.

Rockets hit Baghdad International Airport on early Friday, damaging a civilian plane. The rockets landed on the runway and parking spaces of the airport, Iraqi security sources said. 

Read More: PM Barzani condemns rocket attack on Baghdad International Airport

"Aside from being a threat to Iraq's national security, Friday's rocket attack will harm the internal and international relations of the political players in Iraq," Kahlawi said. "The attacker's goal is to change the political track in Iraq." 

"The security developments are consequences of the political developments," he added. 

The airport houses the Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center, which belongs to the US Department of State. Another target of such assaults has been Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, which hosts most foreign diplomatic missions, including the US embassy and the Iraqi prime minister's house.

Rocket attacks, which the United States and some Iraqi officials blame on Iran-aligned Shia armed groups who oppose the US military presence in the region, have regularly hit the Green Zone in recent years.

Pro-Iranian groups suffered significant losses in the early elections, which were brought forward in response to months-long street protests calling for reforms.

The results sparked street protests from supporters of the political parties, which fared poorly in the parliamentary polls.

Pro-Iran factions claim voter fraud led to the loss of two-thirds of the seats they had since 2018.

The violent acts that started after the announcement of the October elections results also included attacks on offices and residences of the leading members of the Kurdish and Sunni political parties in Baghdad and Kirkuk. 

Earlier this month, at least four rockets targeted the US embassy in Baghdad's Green Zone, wounding two civilians, according to Iraqi security sources.