Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Democracy in the new Iraq -- loser could prevail in parliamentary elections

News from Baghdad that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has formed a coalition government to rule his U.S.-supported country for the next four years sounds like good news. For the continuation of Maliki's role as prime minister of Iraq, it could be. But since Maliki finished second in the March election to the secular and Sunni coalition led by Ayad Allawi, the prospect of four more years of a Shiite-dominated government despite the election results could be problematic for the fragile Iraqi society, according to the New York Times. An unpopular government also could complicate the planned withdrawal of 100,000 U.S. soldiers by the end of August, particularly if the current parliamentary standoff continues and is accompanied by an escalation of violence. But if Maliki's State of Law coalition holds and it results in Allawi's Iraqiya party being completely excluded from power in the next government, despite its narrow victory in the election, there is almost certain to be political resentment in addition to the simmering Shiite-Sunni religious friction that seems to almost always be present. Minority Sunnis held power in Iraq during the brutal reign of Saddam Hussein but the majority Shiites have been in power since the 2003 U.S. invasion. "No doubt this could lead to a resurgence in violence and provide a fodder for extremism," said Sheik Abdul-Rahman Munshid al-Assi, leader of a Sunni political council in the disputed region of Kirkuk, the Times said. "There must be participation in the government by any means. Otherwise, we will return to square one." There is only one Sunni politician in Maliki's coalition, the Times said. "The fear is this alliance will have a sectarian color," said Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, a Sunni allied with Allawi. "That is how Iraqis and the world will see it, whether we like it or not. This development will be a tragic step backward." One hopeful sign -- the Shiite coalition invited Allawi's Iraqiya group to join a national unity government. But the details of such a government -- surely the most important factor -- have not been made clear, the Times said.

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