MPs defect from Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya List

The Iraqiya List won the most number of seats in last year’s election. But now several MPs have defected from the List, and its future is at risk.

Two weeks ago, eight MPs withdrew completely from Iraqiya and formed a separate Iraqiya White Party. It is led by Hasan al-Alawi, a well-known Iraqi writer and intellectual.

Meanwhile, Talal al-Zobaie MP, one of Iraqiya’s fiercest critics during its negotiations to form a government, has also set up a new group within the List, called the Youth of Iraq. So far, 20 MPs have joined.

There are several reasons for these splits within Iraqiya.

Some MPs were protesting against the internal decision-making mechanisms, while others were angry at the partisan favouritism and short-sighted opportunism of some of the leaders.

There were also those who opposed Ayad Allawi’s negotiating approach during the months up to forming a government.

They have also criticised him for not attending parliamentary sessions and say he is too busy travelling outside the country.

This behaviour, say some of his critics, has led to the rug being pulled from under his feet.

Alya Naseef is one of the MPs to join the Iraiya White Party. Once a close ally of Allawi, she now says the most important reason for the split is the sectarian bias of most of the list’s leaders.

“When there is a vote, the result is always in favour of those from the Sunni sect. This has created an imbalance in the decision-making process,” she says.

The Iraqiya List has been described as having a Sunni body and a Shiite head.

Most of the movement’s leaders are Sunnis. They include Vice President, Tariq al-Hashemi, Deputy Prime Minister, Saleh al-Mutlaq, Speaker of Parliament, Usama al-Nujaifi, the Finance Minister, Rafie al-Issawi, and the leader of the ‘Solution List”, Jamal Karbouli.

The only prominent Shiite presence is Iraqiya’s leader, Ayad Allawi.

According to Naseef, the List that has always stressed its secular identity is not really secular at all.

“Allawi has become helpless and ineffective, while the decision-making powers work against him in his own parliamentary coalition and in favour of sectarian representatives,” she says.

After the November 2010 power-sharing agreement brokered in Erbil by the Kurdistan President, Masoud al-Barazani, prominent Sunni leaders from the Iraqiya List have taken a prominent role in the government.

In contrast, Ayad Allawi has still not been granted the presidency of the Strategic Policies Council, promised to him by Prime Minister al-Maliki.

“The desperate race over cabinet posts and government spoils has isolated Ayad Allawi and contributed to the disintegration of the list. This will accelerate its full collapse," says Naseef.

With the withdrawal of the Iraqiya White Party, the official number of members in the Iraqiya List, has decreased from 91 seats to 83.

The actual number will fall even more, if the Youth of Iraq grouping also withdraws.

From the moment the Iraqiya List was created on 17 January 2010, under the regional patronage of Turkey, Syria and Saudi Arabia, many observers predicted its collapse as soon as the first strong wind blew.

Political analyst, Wathiq al-Hashemi, says that the many leaders with different and sometimes contradictory political affiliations have reinforced these expectations.

The Iraqiya List gathers people with pan-Arabist affiliations, lslamists, and those who consider themselves allies of the US.

In addition, there are conflicting personal, factional and sectarian interests within the list.

Sharp differences surfaced, says Hashemi, following the parliamentary election results, particularly when the negotiations to form the government began.

Ayad Allawi accused his deputy, Saleh al-Mutlaq of making contacts with his competitors, while Mutlaq accused Allawiof making decisions without consulting members of his list.

Haydar al-Mulla, the List’s official spokesman, denied that there was a so-called “iceberg of persistent differences within the bloc.” He also denied reports of further splits.

“The withdrawal of some members, particularly those who got into Parliament through the List, was not a surprise. Their withdrawal will have no impact whatsoever on the List’s ability to pursue its national aspirations,” he said.

In a televised interview, the Speaker of Parliament, Usama Nujaifi, who is no longer one of the prominent members of Iraqiya, said that the split in Iraqiya was tragic and that it was basically due to other blocs creating a rift.

The leaders of the Iraqiya List say they intend to form a political party composed of the 91 deputies with a clear political program.

But for Naseef, this move comes too late. "The full collapse of the list is imminent," she believes, although she says it will be up to the regional powers, which supervised its creation, to decide on its demise.

“The Iraqiya List was born outside Iraq. Its meetings and all its major decisions were taken abroad. It is for this reason that the decision to end its presence will also be taken outside the country," she says.