Last week, Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi’s office said that he checked an electoral registration office in Baghdad and took his polling card.
The announcement did not only aim to urge people to register and get their polling cards but also indicated that Abadi is determined to hold the upcoming elections scheduled after six months, mid-May of 2018, and run for a second premiership term.
Abadi’s path to a second term is clear and it seems guaranteed. The supporting circumstances to secure this second term were never available to those who preceded him as premiers.
The number of armed forces and security forces is now increasing and their votes, which is known as the “special voting”, will definitely go to the prime minister since the latter is also the general commander of the armed forces.
Abadi’s success at liberating all areas occupied by ISIS made him very popular. This popularity increased – outside the Kurdistan region – amid the crisis with the region regarding the referendum.
Abadi is now seeking to benefit from all this to win a second term and form a cabinet that has a comfortable political base. He frequently said that he looks forward to establish a national coalition that goes beyond sectarianism and nationalism.
The road is actually paved in front of him as in the past three years, many developments broke the political formula, which lasted since the toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003, and which is based on political-partisan shares that are disguised under sectarian-nationalist slogans.
Iraq’s stability and achieving sustainable development during the phase after ISIS greatly rely on the relation between Baghdad and ErbilAdnan Hussein
The governance formula
During the last phase, the governance formula in Baghdad was based on the Shiite-Sunni-Kurdish axis. A coalition between Shiite parties, another between Sunni parties and a third between Kurdish parties was formed.
These coalitions controlled power and money in Baghdad and specified the fate of the entire political process by a consensus and by violating the constitution at several occasions.
There was a fourth parallel coalition that was neither sectarian nor nationalist. It was the National Iraqi Alliance, which was not efficient enough, because others weakened it of course, and it was thus neither part of governance nor part of the opposition.
The sharing system and consensus policy failed miserably in managing Iraq and all the four coalitions acknowledge it. This is in addition to what Iraq’s miserable security, economic and social situation reveals as one third of its area fell under the control of ISIS the war against whom has not fully ended yet. Now after this system of governance reached a dead end, efforts are underway to work in another direction.
Parties no longer make traditional agreements. Shiite parties are no longer united as they divided, like what happened with the State of Law Coalition (Abadi’s and Maliki’s wings) and with the Supreme Council of Iraq whose defecting members formed the National Wisdom Movement. Al-Ahrar bloc (the Sadrist) also completely withdrew from the (Shiite) national coalition.
The same happened with the Kurds as the Gorran Movement and Kurdistan Islamic Movement dissociated themselves from the Kurdish alliance. The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, which was a major power in the Kurdish coalition, is confronting fragmentation, which began during the era of its founder and late leader Jalal Talabani.
Sunni powers have been the most fragmented ever since ISIS invaded Sunni areas and displaced millions of citizens from their cities that were destroyed during the war, which Iraqi forces fought to liberate them from the terrorist group’s control. Sunnis are extremely angry at their leaders as they think they are interested in securing their influence and are involved in financial and administrative corruption.
The best chance
Therefore, this is the best chance to form a coalition that goes beyond sectarianism and nationalism. Abadi in particular has the chance to do as he is the head of the executive authority and his acceptability in and outside Iraq is steadily progressing. The most popular Shiite party, the Sadrist movement led by Muqtada al-Sadr, recently voiced its support of him publicly.
According to some information, there is a possibility of agreements being forged with other Shiite powers, Kurdish powers and new Sunni powers which emerged when ISIS occupied Iraqi cities. An agreement of some sort will likely be established with the National Iraqi Alliance led by Ayad Allawi.
These agreement’s requirements are establishing a governance formula (of coalitions) that is different than the formula of solely making decisions. This latter approach was adopted by previous governments and it somehow continued to exist during the current government’s term.
What is certain that Abadi will increase his chances of managing an (national) expanded coalition and win a second term if he implements what he vowed to do in the past weeks: combat administrative and financial corruption and restore the funds which were stolen over the course of 14 years and which are estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars. This is very important and addressing this matter is one of the most urgent and popular demands.
However, Abadi faces an obstacle here as most corruption operations were and continue to be managed by leaders of parties that are influential in authority. Most of them are also Islamic. By opening this corruption file, Abadi will be like those who are stepping in a nest of wasps. The same will happen when it comes to discussing the matter of arms outside the context of the state and implementing the law.
The other important point is relations between the federal government and the Kurdistan Region. Iraq’s stability and achieving sustainable development during the phase after ISIS greatly rely on the relation between Baghdad and Erbil. Tensions will weigh heavily on the entire Iraqi situation.
Erbil made mistakes and so did Baghdad. The way Abadi will address this problem will play a role in specifying the nature of the next government and Iraq’s fate for the next four years.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Adnan Hussein is the executive editor-in-chief of Al-Mada newspaper and head of the National Union of Iraqi journalists. Previously, he has held the position of Managing Editor in Asharq al-Awsat newspaper. He tweets under the handle @adnanhussein.