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State of Law Coalition Opposes Consensus Government

Mazin Sahib
Senior members in the State of Law coalition have announced the alliance’s intention to abolish the ministerial quota system which has been in place for six years if it wins January’s national elections.
4.11.2009  |  Baghdad

At the moment all sectarian components are given a seat in government in an attempt to ease communal relations, but the State of Law coalition says that seats should only be granted to those parties that are victorious in parliamentary elections.

Dr. Ali al-Hilli, a senior member of the Islamic Call party which is a member of the State of Law coalition, told Niqash that the alliance will “educate voters regarding the importance of having a parliamentary-majority government composed of the winning parliamentary blocs, like most democratic political systems in the world.”

Al-Hilli, a parliamentarian close to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, says that the current system “shirks public responsibility” by granting power to undeserving elements.

Last year al-Maliki called for a change to the system, saying that greater power needed to be given to the Prime Minister to form and direct his government adding that the current system was created “in an atmosphere of fear.”

The statements have already sparked opposition among Kurds and other minority parties who fear that they could be locked out of power by the new system.

According to Ala’a Talabani, a Kurdistan coalition MP, the country is still in a “transitional” phase requiring the continuation of the national consensus or quota system. She says that with the next government likely to face many key issues such as the implementation of Article 140 it is imperative that it includes different political forces.

“The failure to form a pluralistic government will fuel the conflict, marginalize some of the participants and obstruct transitional justice. For us, whatever the reason, we cannot forfeit our right to be part of the next government,” she told Niqash.

Kurds reject any form of one-party or one-coalition rule, as well as the exclusion of any party from the cabinet. They believe it would constitute a threat to the emerging democratic system. Majority rule would, says Talabani, lead to a “new dictatorship.”

The Iraqi National Alliance (INA), the Shia coalition seen as al-Maliki’s central election threat, has also said that it is committed to the consensual system and that it wants to prevent al-Maliki from seizing too much power for himself.

A source at the INA told Niqash that “the Iraqi National Alliance forces, accompanied by other parties, are seeking to build a state in accordance with a consensual constitution in which all the constituencies of Iraq will participate, whereas Prime Minister al-Maliki is trying to marginalize all other groups and make strategic decisions single-handedly.”

In addition to the INA and Kurdish parties, a group of independent MPs are also opposed to majority rule. Hussein al-Falluja, an independent Sunni MP, told Niqash that he would prefer a consensus government and believes it would be “better than a parliamentary-majority government, at least for the next parliamentary session and the one thereafter.”

According to al-Falluja, the quota system is a "regulatory mechanism for ensuring the rights of all segments of Iraqi society."

However, despite this political opposition to the proposed change a majority of Iraqis seem to be in favour of the step as a means of strengthening government control over the country. Critics of the current system say that the power-sharing system is exploited by those who want the government to fail, facilitating the spread of violence.

"Any professional analysis of the recent security breaches will indicate that they stem from the lack of accord within the government which is made up of sparring rival parties competing among themselves," said Dr. Mahmoud Kamal, a political analyst, pointing to the conflicts between al-Maliki and the Kurds and the INA as a mark of government weakness.

According to Kamal, the continuation of the current system will result in "more explosions, more security breaches and more spilled blood.”

Muna al-Rawi, a primary school teacher who lost her husband in the recent Bloody Wednesday explosions, says that the quota system has “made sectarian war an enduring reality and induced parties to neglect voter demands since they remain in power regardless.”

Al-Rawi believes the only solution towards more effective governments is the formation of a “parliamentary-majority government able to bear its full responsibility, regardless of whether it is Sunni, Shia, Kurdish, or mixed.”

Yet even as the debate over the proposal intensifies, opponents say they are confident that the State of Law coalition will not succeed in implementing the measure. According to Talabani it is unlikely that any one party will secure enough parliamentary seats to secure control of the government. “The next government will inevitably be a compromise since no list will achieve a majority,” she said.

Nonetheless, the State of Law coalition is playing up its chances of introducing change. While al-Hilli acknowledges that it is premature to talk about the forces that will make up the next government, he says that if the State of Law coalitions wins the January election it will deny al-Maliki rivals access to power.

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