After last week’s first session of parliament in Baghdad lasted only a matter of minutes before major walkouts, it was clear that the process of electing a new speaker, president, and premier wouldn’t be so easy. Yet it seems no progress at all is being made.
Closed door meetings among officials aimed at deciding on the speaker, the first step, ended in failure over the weekend, and the government has announced it is delaying its next session until August 12.
Outgoing parliament speaker Osama Nujaifi, a Sunni, was so eager to see the new government take over and oust Prime Minister Maliki that he agreed to give up the speaker’s position in the next term to a Shi’ite, assuming that might speed the process up. It isn’t.
The big problem is that Iraq’s Shi’ite majority, which is a large majority in parliament given that much of Sunni Anbar Province didn’t get to vote, is split among several different parties who don’t like each other very much. The largest faction, Maliki’s State of Law Bloc, seems internally divided as well, with some looking to back a new PM and others insisting Maliki must be allowed a third term.
Maliki has been angling for a third term for awhile, but mounting military losses to ISIS have put the militants on the outskirts of Baghdad, and the divisive premier is in no position to try to unite Iraq anymore. The problem is, Maliki has centralized power so much for so long, there is no obvious heir apparent, and what few candidates have been floated don’t seem much more likely to secure support from Kurds and Sunni Arabs than Maliki was.