As reported before, the major Shiite parties including Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Dawa party, with ample support from Iran, have agreed in principle to reform the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA). The UIA was the major vote getter in the 2005 elections, but has since broken apart. The announcement of the new UIA line-up has been delayed several times, most recently August 13, 2009. Officially, members of the Dawa party say there are three holds ups. First, Dawa is asking for more parties to be added to the list. Second, Members of the UIA want it to be a Shiite coalition first and foremost, while Dawa disagrees. Last, there is a debate about how parliamentary seats will be awarded within the alliance. The real reason, as always is what role Prime Minister Maliki will play.
Maliki’s greatest desire is to maintain his position as prime minister, which is why he agreed to rejoin the UIA after forming his own State of Law List for the 2009 provincial elections. According to Nibras Kazimi of the Hudson Institute, Maliki wants to be assured that he will be the only UIA candidate for prime minister. The problem is the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) only want to ride Maliki’s coattails back into power and then drop him. There are rumors that Interior Minister Jawad Bolani of the Constitution Party may be an alternative candidate within the alliance to Maliki. His other possible rival, Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi of the SIIC, has been politically wounded by members of his security detail robbing the Rafidain Bank, one of the three largest in the country. Bolani and Mahdi are also political rivals, and the Interior Minister has been trying to take credit for the arrests, while implicating the Vice President. Maliki has joined the fray as well saying that Mahdi’s office has turned over the stolen money, but not the guards involved in the heist.
If Maliki does not get the nod for prime minister from the UIA, he is threatening to run alone. Sheikh Abu Risha of the Anbar Awakening has consistently said that he wants to run with Maliki in 2010. Maliki also recently gave a speech in Anbar to tribal sheikhs where he praised their work, called for Iraqi nationalism, and an end to sectarian politics. Other possible allies mentioned are Sheikh Ahmad Abdul Ghafoor Samarraei who runs a series of Sunni mosques, and parliamentarian Saleh al-Mutlaq, who Maliki courted after the 2009 elections. Running with independent Sunnis like these would fit Maliki’s rhetoric of forming a truly nationalist and cross-sectarian alliance, something he promised after the provincial elections but failed to follow through on.
Either way Maliki decides to go he may have found himself caught in a Catch-22. If he runs with the United Iraqi Alliance he will be taking a step backwards in Iraqi politics, and will be accused of returning to sectarianism after promoting nationalism. On the other hand, if he chooses to run his own list, and brings in Sunnis he will be accused of collaborating with Baathists, something that still resonates with the Shiite public. The Prime Minister actually tried to reach out to former regime elements after the provincial elections, but was forced to back off because of constant attacks of trying to bring back the Baath party. Maliki’s negotiations also show that his ultimate goal is holding onto power, and he will use anything, nationalism, sectarianism, etc. to maintain his position.
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