Alwaght- With the swearing in of new lawmakers on June 23 after walkout of Sadrist bloc's 73 MPs from the Iraqi parliament, a large part of the political tension that followed Muqtada al-Sadr's decision to quit the parliament calmed down. The extraordinary session of the Iraqi parliament, which was attended by 202 out of a total of 329 members of parliament, made it clear that the scenario of the return of Sadrists to parliament is unlikely, and now the focus is on the future of forming a new government in negotiations among different political factions.
After the oath of new MPs, according to the preliminary estimates, the Shiite Coordination Framework (SCF) 120 representatives and possible addition of Azm bloc, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Babylon Movement, and the independents, would reach 176 seats. This large number would grant the SCF a leading role. To put it differently, the role of al-Sadr in the government formation is now played by the all-Shiite coalition.
However, a look at the weight of the political parties in the parliament gives us the conclusion that it is not certain that a government led by the SCF can come to existence. This is because there is a quorum of two-third presence of lawmakers for parliament session to elect a president and the former allies of al-Sadr, including Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Sovereignty Coalition led by parliament speaker Mohammad al-Halbousi and the prominent businessman Khamis Khanjar, have the capability to block the sessions for president election.
However, not all ways for forming a cabinet are blocked, and developments indicate a gap within the Sovereignty Coalition and possible change in favor of formation of a government favorable to the SCF. In the past few days, the media outlets reported the emergence of a dispute between al-Sadr and Massoud Barzani, the head of KDP, and the talks between the Barzanis and the Coordination Framework.
KDP, the main loser of gamble of coalition with al-Sadr
The struggle of Barzani's for fast, comprehensive, and intensive negotiations with other parties after al-Sadr walkout is more driven by wrong policies and actions of the KDP after the October elections than a will to take the initiative. Even months before the general elections, Barzani had talked behind the scenes with al-Sadr and al-Halbousi about a post-election alliance.
Following the release of the final results of the October 10 elections, KDP, inattentive of the will of other Kurdish parties, immediately joined al-Sadr's project to form a national majority government. Barzani made his first mistake from the very beginning by not talking to other Kurdish parties.
In the second step, the KDP, putting all of its eggs in the single basket of coalition with al-Sadr, pushed to monopolize the Kurdish shares in Baghdad posts altogether. With the help of its allies, it appointed its member Shakhawan Abdullah as the second deputy speaker of Iraqi parliament. Then it named its member for the Iraqi president post, which had been traditionally held by the rival PUK. Therefore, its second mistake was to insist on ouster of President Barham Salih without any negotiation with its powerful rival PUK.
In the third step, the KDP insisted on forming a national majority government even despite the parliament failed to reach its quorum to elect the candidate presented by the Kurdish party. Its third mistake, actually, was its decline to negotiate with the PUK and the SCF.
Barzani's biggest mistake, however, was betting on coalition with al-Sadr. He acted so naively and oddly as if he never knew al-Sadr's way of deciding and acting erratically. He acted as if he did not know that al-Sadr could make a dramatic shift any moment. So, the KDP, which put all of its focus and potentials on alliance with al-Sadr, incurred the biggest loss and shock after al-Sadr left the political process. The Kurdish party is now the most isolated among other parties as it refused serious dialogue with its Kurdish rivals and the SCF.
Although the Barzanis are still weighty in the Iraqi equations as their alliance with the Sunni-majority Sovereignty Coalition prevails, the problem is that there is no guarantee about continuation of this alliance and Sunni stay out of a cabinet led by the Shiites.
KDP and alliance with the SCF
Although the KDP is the main loser of Sadrist departure from the political process, since al-Sadr's televised address of June 9 about readiness for collective resignation, the Kurdish party said it was preparing to adjust to the new political reality and as the first step it formed a negotiation committee comprised of Fuad Hussein, Benkin Rikani, and Shakhawan Abdullah– three of whom with friendly ties to the SCF.
Before the parliament's emergency session to replace the resigned Sadrist MPs, the KDP negotiators talked to the Coordination Framework representatives and set the party's conditions. The presence of the KDP in the new session of the parliament showed that apparently initial agreements have been reached between this party and the SCF, something mentioned by Shakhawan Abdullah, who is also the head of the KDP's MPs in the parliament.
According to Abdullah, the two sides reached an understanding before the recent parliament session and set to publish a statement after the session in which the KDP's conditions are emphasized. The conditions for participation in the next government included Barzani's "partnership, balance, and consensus" principles and solutions to Kurdistan region's gas and oil, and security cases.
Following the remarks, Fatah coalition's spokesman Ahmad al-Asadi said that the parliamentary factions agreed to forming a government based on the three principles, confirming the comments made by Shakhawan. Al-Asadi said that the national unity government will address all the issues with of the autonomous Kurdistan region.
This activism demonstrates the fact that KDP and Barzani himself have concluded that they have made strategic mistakes post-election and not only see a slimmer chance of securing the post of Iraq president but also should be careful not to be sidelined from the power structure. They now have many demands but less power to act. In such circumstances, even their minimum share is a positive gain for them.