Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s hopes for retaining power past his current role in the caretaker government is looking increasingly remote tonight, after the Iraqi National Alliance (INA) loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr announced that they were breaking off talks with Maliki’s State of Law faction, apparently over the question of who would be the next prime minister.
State of Law, whose faction is built almost exclusively around loyalty to Maliki, has demanded that Maliki retain this position at all costs, despite the faction’s second-place finish in the elections.
One of the MPs from State of Law, Izat al-Shabandar, warned that the INA’s rejection of Maliki amounted to a “direct invitation” for the rival Iraqiya bloc to form the next government. Shabandar insisted this “disrespected the rights of majority in Iraq.”
This is only true, however, if one accepts Shabandar’s notion that the INA’s 70 seats belong to the State of Law by virtue of both being part of an increasingly meaningless Shi’ite religious alliance. Iraqiya, not State of Law, actually won the largest plurality in the March 7 election.
Recent reports suggest INA leader Sadr has warmed to the idea of a coalition with the secularist Iraqiya, despite the apparent opposition to this partnership by the Iranian government. Any two of the three largest blocs could theoretically form a government with only trivial support from smaller factions.
Yet after nearly five months, the collapse of the INA-State of Law alliance appears to be par for the course, and no coalition government is forthcoming. Indeed, it seems increasingly likely that the election will have ended in a hung parliament.