Iraq’s tenuous coalition government once again seems on the brink of collapse today, as the largest member, the Iraqiya Party, has threatened to withdraw all ministers from the government if they don’t agree to a series of demands within 72 hours.
The demands center around key issues for Iraqiya’s largest constituency, the nation’s Sunni Arab minority, and include an end to the national government’s power to conduct random arrests, as well as a general amnesty for those being held on political charges.
In addition, Iraqiya is calling for the Questioning and Justice Law of 2007 to be cancelled. The law was the center of the Deba’athification system in Iraq, but has been used by the Maliki government repeatedly against Iraqiya members, on charges that they had nominal links to the pre-2003 Ba’ath Party.
It is the latest in a series of clashes between Iraqiya and the Maliki government, which has for months been trying to arrest one of Iraqiya’s top members, Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, as a terrorist. Hashemi has fled to Kurdistan, and has demanded a trial outside of the Shi’ite dominated areas around the capital, believing that as a Sunni he would be at a disadvantage in such a court.
Iraqiya has been at odds with Maliki’s State of Law Party since the 2010 election, which Iraqiya won but ended with the US pushing for them to agree to be Maliki’s minor partner in a coalition deal. Since then Iraqiya has been given only a handful of ministries (fewer than promised), but with the largest plurality in parliament could theoretically push through a vote of no confidence, forcing new elections.
That is true legally speaking, but Maliki’s increased centralization of power under his control, including naming himself as Interior and Defense Minister to keep control of all national troops and police, has many believing that he doesn’t intend to allow step down even if he loses his legal mandate.