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More on the UIA and Allawi
by Juan Cole (reposted)
Wednesday Feb 23rd, 2005 6:44 AM
Current Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi told the NYT on Tuesday that he had heard that Iran had lobbied its Iraqi allies against allowing him to continue as prime minister. Allawi professes puzzlement at this stance. Uh, Iyad, it might be because you let your defense minister, Hazem Shaalan, say that Iran is Iraq's number one enemy! You could see how a thing like that might annoy Tehran a little bit. Not that Iran really has a veto-- pretending that it does may be an attempt to smear the United Iraqi Alliance as themselves puppets of Iran. Allawi also admits to the strategy I suggested Tuesday morning, of attempting to become prime minister by allying with the Kurds and then trying to detach 60 or so members of the UIA.
Al-Hayat, however, suggests that two can play that game. It says that of the 40 deputies in Allawi's Iraqiyah list, 9 are thinking of bolting and joining the UIA. They include two persons who tilt toward the Sadr Movement, and 7 other members led by Husain Ali Shaalan.

It should be remembered that Allawi would need two thirds of the parliament, or about 182 MPs, to form a government. The UIA can prevent him from succeeding even if only 94 of its 140 deputies stand firm (and this conclusion assumes that Allawi could attact the allegiance not only of 46 UIA deputies but of all of the small parties such as the Sadrist Cadres and Chosen, the Turkmen National Front, the Islamic Action Council, and the Kurdish Islamic Bloc). I'd say Allawi's task is simply impossible.

Allawi does not count on the moral authority of Grand Ayatollah Sistani, which is what enabled the UIA to be cobbled together. Sistani probably could send envoys to most UIA deputies and argue them out of supporting Allawi. And I suspect that he would do so if he felt it necessary.

Al-Hayat quotes a member of the UIA who says that the delegates who supported Chalabi would not support Allawi, and that the UIA rejects even a cabinet post for him; and that he should just get used to leading a small opposition faction in the parliament.

Persons close to Allawi, in contrast, told the newspaper that the current prime minister remained confident that he could seduce enought UIA members away from their party to form a government.

Gilbert Achcar informs me that the distribution of some of the seats for the religious parties in the United Iraqi Alliance was given in al-Hayat, and kindly provides the figures mentioned:

Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq: 18 seats
Islamic Da'wa Party: 15 seats
Islamic Da'wa Party-Iraq organisation: 9 seats
Islamic Virtue Party: 9 seats
Shia Islamic Council: 13 seats
Faili Kurds: 4 seats
Al-Sadr's Current: 21 seats

This list accounts for only 81 of the 140 seats, though. It demonstrates that the religious parties were seriously shortchanged in the formation of the United Iraqi Alliance list.

What's next? If Jaafari can put together a 2/3s majority in parliament, he can have the president and two vice-presidents elected. They in turn will forma presidency council that will appoint a prime minister. He and they will then jointly appoint the cabinet ministers. The final government will need a 51 percent vote of confidence in parliament. (Some commentators are saying that it needs 2/3s approval the way the initial government did, but this is not true. A simple majority can confirm the government in power). Andrew Arato reminds us of the following passages of the interim constitution.

' Article 36.

(A) The National Assembly shall elect a President of the State and two Deputies. They shall form the Presidency Council, the function of which will be to represent the sovereignty of Iraq and oversee the higher affairs of the country. The election of the Presidency Council shall take place on the basis of a single list and by a two-thirds majority of the members’ votes.

Article 38.

(A) The Presidency Council shall name a Prime Minister unanimously, as well as the members of the Council of Ministers upon the recommendation of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister and Council of Ministers shall then seek to obtain a vote of confidence by simple majority from the National Assembly prior to commencing their work as a government. The Presidency Council must agree on a candidate for the post of Prime Minister within two weeks. In the event that it fails to do so, the responsibility of naming the Prime Minister reverts to the National Assembly. In that event, the National Assembly must confirm the nomination by a two-thirds majority. '
§Were the Shiites Cheated? And What does Allawi Want?
by Juan Cole (reposted) Thursday Feb 24th, 2005 9:35 AM
Al-Hayat has a long interview with an "informed Iraqi source" who is close to US officials in Iraq. He maintains that the US officials there were astounded that the United Iraqi Alliance did so well, and that they felt helpless and resigned as the process unfolded. He says that they are now asking privately if the US shed so much blood and treasure in Iraq to help fundamentalist Shiite allies of Iran take over Baghdad.

Al-Hayat also today repeats the allegation that the US or the electoral commission somehow cheated the United Iraqi Alliance of an absolute majority in parliament. (Note that this argument completely contradicts the interview they did, which speaks of US helplessness before the results.) The argument that the Iraqi elections were fixed is, however, implausible. It is sometimes alleged that the Shiites should have done better than they did, given the Sunni Arab absence. But when the smoke cleared, the UIA did have a majority in parliament, so the allegation makes no sense.

The below figures are from this wire service article ) and from this piece ( ) from the New York Times.

The NYT claimed that "the turnout in the three mainly Kurdish provinces in the north averaged 85 percent; in nine mainly Shiite southern provinces, the average was 71 percent."

This is the breakdown for turnout as best I could determine it, with only a couple of missing figures.

Al-Anbar (2%)
Al-Basrah (?)
Al-Muthanna (61%)
Al-Qadisiyah (69%)
An-Najaf (73%)
Arbil (?)
As-Sulaymaniyah (80%)
At-Ta'mim (?)
Babil (71%)
Baghdad (48%)
Dohuk (89%)
Dhi Qar (67%)
Diyala (34%)
Karbala' (73%)
Maysan (59%)
Ninevah (17%)
Salah ad-Din (29%)
Wasit (66%)

Now, the United Iraqi Alliance has 51 percent of the seats, having attacted the religious Shiite vote. The Iraqiya list of Iyad Allawi got the middle class, secular-leaning Shiites, with 14.5 percent. That is 64.5 percent for the two major Shiite lists. Then the small Shiite parties and the Communists (whose supporters are disproportionately Shiites) are another 3.4 percent, for a total of 68%.

If Shiites are, say, 62 percent of the population, and 71 percent turned out to vote, if 100 percent of the other groups had come out, the Shiites should have gotten 46 percent of the seats. But since the 4.5 million Sunni Arabs hardly turned out at all, and since 15 percent of Kurds did not, in the proportional system those percentages were added to the Shiite column, so they got 68% of seats in parliament. That is, it is as if 110 percent of the Shiites voted, because the absence of the Sunni Arabs magnified the Shiite vote. In fact, if the religious and secular Shiites could cooperate (fat chance), they could from a government all by themselves without reference to the Kurds or Sunni Arabs.

Precisely because the United Iraqi Alliance has ended up with 51 percent of the seats, which is enough to confirm the new government once a cabinet is selected, and since with the small Shiite parties it has 54 percent, either the US did not intervene in the ballot counting or it was completely incompetent in doing so. Personally, I don't think the US was in a position to intervene. Grand Ayatollah Sistani would not have put up with it, and the Americans knew it.

The results seem to me entirely plausible. Friends of mine with contacts among middle class Shiites in Baghdad reported that many of them were going to vote for Allawi, so the 14.5 percent showing for the Iraqiya list is not out of line (and is much smaller than most reporters with mainly middle class Baghdad contacts had expected).

If the Daily Telegraph ( ) is right that Iyad Allawi hopes to form a government without either the Kurdish Alliance or the United Iraqi Alliance, then this whole bid of his for the prime minister post is a stalking horse for some other purpose. The UIA and the Kurds between them have 78 percent of the seats in parliament! And Allawi would need 66 percent to form a government. He says he will work with small parties, but aside from the Sunni Iraqiyun with 5 seats and the Communists with 2, most of the rest are Shiite and have already formed a coalition with the UIA. Allawi's only hope is to detach delegates from the United Iraqi Alliance in such numbers as to put into question that list's ability to dominate parliament. Even then he has no chance of becoming prime minister. He almost certainly is simply angling for a cabinet position, and using the threat of creating disunity in the UIA ranks by seducing some of its members as leverage.

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