Reidar Visser has his usual, extremely helpful commentary on the news from Baghdad, here. Bottom line, there: To Maliki’s surprise, his State of Law Alliance got only 89 seats to the 91 won by Allawi’s Iraqiyya.
Given that the parliament now has 325 seats, these two leaders will have to jockey hard to reach the simple majority (or preferably, something significantly better than a simple majority) that is required to govern… Which is why the Iraqi National Alliance (INA), with 70 seats, the Kurdistan Alliance (= KDP + PUK) with 43, and even perhaps some of the non-KA Kurds, the ‘minorities’, and Tawaffuq will have a chance at playing kingmaker.
As we see in Israel, it is not always the largest party that is able to make a coalition. As we see in Israel, too, (and saw in Iraq in 2006) there is always a chance of blocs that went into the election unified breaking up during the post-election coalition-forming period. (And the Iraqi supreme court has just expressly ruled that this is permissible.)
Visser points to the importance of the first elections that will occur: those for House Speaker and President. He downplays the importance of the presidency; and it’s true it will be less than it has been. But during the coalition-forming process the Head of State can play a key role through the decision of which bloc-leader to ask first to try to assemble a governing coalition. (Hey, that might even happen in the U.K. this time, if neither major party wins a clear victory: Then at last, 58 years into her monarchy, Queen Elizabeth will have a curcial role to play!)
Viseer gives this schedule of what should happen next in Iraq:
- if certification [of the election and its results] takes place around 1 April, a meeting of the new parliament must be held within 15 April, a new president must be elected within 15 May, a PM nominee must be identified by 1 June, and a new cabinet must be presented for approval by parliament before 1 July. The psychological deadline is likely to be the start of Ramadan around 10 August and the scheduled completion of withdrawal of US combat troops by 31 August.
H’mmm. It might well take longer than that. But I know that the folks in the Pentagon are extremely eager that nothing be allowed to delay the scheduled drawdown of the U.S. troop presence. So I see a fairly large possibility of Washington working intently behind the scenes to try to get big neighbors Iran and Saudi Arabia to cooperate in finding a way for the government-formation to go smoothly in Baghdad. I expect Tehran will cooperate in this venture– up to a point. Not so sure about the Saudis, but there probably are conditions under which a deal can be worked out. Maybe other big powers– in the region and the world– will also cooperate in trying to make this work. But throughout this whole election process, you’ve had this palpable sense of U.S. power in the region shrinking. Interesting. I guess the Kurds will have to look elsewhere, very fast, for some new form of patronage .
And talking of the Kurds, look at those results from Nineveh and Kirkuk. In Nineveh, the KA only got 8 out of the 34 seats (with maybe 3 allies from the ‘minorities’ there? maybe fewer than three?) In Kirkuk, the KA split it 6-6 with Iraqiyya. It certainly doesn’t looks as though the KRG will be getting bigger any time soon.