Iraq moved towards forming a new government under a new prime minister yesterday as the two Shia religious political blocs reached an agreement on sharing power.
It is likely that the prime minister Nouri al-Maliki will lose his job as the price of the deal between his State of Law coalition and the Iraqi National Alliance, a powerful group dominated by the followers of the Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
The understanding confirms that Iraq’s majority Shia community will continue to dominate the government in alliance with the Kurds who enjoy autonomy close to independence in the north of the country. The new Shia grouping will have 163 seats in the 325-seat parliament, four short of a majority, but the Kurds have a further 43 seats.
Shut out from power are the mostly Sunni Arab followers of Iyad Allawi’s al-Iraqiya group, who flocked to the polls in the 7 March general election to win 91 seats.
Allawi has had difficulty allying himself with the Kurds because the Sunni in northern Iraq are in a dispute with the Kurds over territory. A new government will try to incorporate part at least of Allawi’s Sunni-dominated bloc so the Sunni do not feel wholly excluded from power. But with a limited number of government posts available to be distributed, Allawi’s supporters will inevitably feel disappointed.
PATRICK COCKBURN is the Ihe author of “Muqtada: Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq.”