Can Political Consensus Rescue Iraq?
Since 2003, Iraq has been ruled according to the principle of sectarian and ethnic consensus. This has led to fortify of the quota mechanisms in the Iraqi political system. Later, many anti-Iraq powers and organizations, such as IS, managed to exploit this distorted experience to control more than 40% of Iraq's territories. Given the current intensive talks about the composition of the next Iraqi government under the same rules, we have to wonder whether this behavior will save Iraq in the long term.
The first step on the path of consensus occurred during the election of the new speaker of Iraq's parliament Mohamed al-Halbusi. In that parliament session, the two Iraqi conflicted fronts, Sairoon and al-Fatih, reached an agreement to support al-Halbosi's nomination.
That also was a part of the Iranian-American implied understandings. In fact, they agreed to implement this strategy: Neither victors nor vanquished. Hence, it is expected that that event will pave the way for more consensual equations regarding the choice of the president and the prime minister. In this way, there is a fear that the system of corruption and sectarian quota will repeat itself strongly.
Consensus means that the basic political parties will share the essentially governmental positions among them. For example, the Kurds are now struggling within their political system to decide who will be the president of Iraq and who will be the president of the Iraqi Kurdistan region. The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan Party, led by the family of the late Iraqi president Jalal al-Talabani, is trying to get the Iraqi presidency.
In turn, it wants to give the Kurdistan Democratic Party, led by Masoud al-Barzani, the presidency of the Kurdistan region. The latter party assures that its leaders will not accept this unfair sharing. It has reiterated that it will also demand getting the right of ruling the oil-rich city of Kirkuk that Talabani's party has dominated for years. This kind of consensus will absolutely result in enhancing the political bargaining for partisan motivations.
The Shiite parties have split into two opposing fronts: Sairoon of Muqtada al-Sadr and al-Fatih of Hadi al-Amiri. Each party asserts that it has the parliamentary majority that grants it the right to select the prime minister and to determine the next government. This has caused a very dangerous situation in which a direct military fight might erupt between them in Iraq's Shiite heartland. Thus, they are now insisting on the consensus through which they can nominate just one candidate to reconcile their strife.
Different observers have confirmed that these political blocs have agreed upon an independent and technocratic candidate. However, this does not mean they have stopped discussing how they must distribute the governmental positions. This will not reduce the risk of dividing among them for political and utilitarian reasons. Therefore, this new cabinet might collapse in a short time.
The Sunnis also are separated into many sides. In the aftermath of the May 12 election, the Sunni figures have completed their largest coalition: The national axis. Then some of the Sunni parties split between the Shia alliances of al-Sadr and al-Amiri. The Sunni's group led by Khamis al-Khanjar and Jamal al-Karboli, who joined al-Amiri's team, has won the position of Iraq's parliament speaker. The other Sunni parties are now looking for a sort of consensus to reach a settlement about distributing the governmental positions among them, too. They implicitly said that al-Khanjar's control over the parliament does not represent the whole Sunni interests. In addition, they expressed their desire to oust the parliament speaker Mohamed al-Halbusi whenever possible.
The approach of political consensus in Iraq is very needed provided that it helps politicians to unite and agree on a creative plan or a comprehensive political program to administrate the country. If it is only implemented for distributing the governmental positions and benefits, many disagreements will emerge. This will put the Iraqi future at risk and will bring various problems that might give a rise to more ruin of Iraq.
Diyari Salih is an Iraqi academic, Ph.D. in Political Geography, Baghdad, Post-Doctorate in International Relations, Warsaw, Focuses on the Geopolitical Issues in Iraq.