Iraq appears to be heading towards a detrimental phase as political parties attempt to unseat the country’s prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki.
“This is Iraq’s last chance for democracy,” the Amman-based political analyst and TV commentator, Ahmed al-Abyadh, told Al Arabiya.
This is also “the first time in its history” that Iraq is trying to unseat a premier so there is bound to be some uncertainty, even some unease which could cause a political crisis, Abyadh added.
Opponents have long slammed Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s increased grip on power and his refusal to abide by the Arbil Agreement of 2011. The pact saw political blocs signing a power-sharing deal in which they vowed an end to the then dilemma of filling sensitive positions for the interior and defense ministries.
In a country marred with sectarian strife, the ministries’ positions were coveted by contesting groups, sects and parties. Maliki is the head of these ministries and there is a great demand to loosen his grip on power as it is causing alarm among all factions.
Despite Maliki’s announcement that he is not seeking a third term, opponents have increasingly accused him of being a “dictator” hampering Iraq’s road to democracy.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is now heading a no-confidence vote against Maliki because he, and his supporters, do not want another dictator in power. He is working together with the secular yet Sunni backed Iraqiya List, the anti-U.S. occupation the Sadrist bloc, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, some Kurdish Islamist parties, as well as some members of Maliki’s own State of Law Coalition.
A majority of 325 parliamentarians are required to pass a vote of no-confidence against the prime minister.
According to reports in the Iraqi media, Talabani has got the support of 164 parliamentarians.
Abyadh believes that number is actually higher – 177 – as Talabani has got the support of Islamist Kurdish parties.
Maliki, however, seemed unperturbed by the moves.
On Monday he showed his first reaction to talk of a no-confidence vote when he said in a statement that he received complaints from lawmakers saying that the signatures obtained for the vote were fraudulent and taken under extortion. He said he wanted an investigation to determine the veracity of these claims and if it was proved true, the guilty should be punished under the law.
Maliki ─ who says “traitors” are behind the no-confidence move ─ could resort to using his remaining political cards: unleashing “files” against members of parliament from different political parties, said Abyadh.
This will likely lead to political instability, similar to the one seen last year when Maliki charged vice president Tariq al-Hashemi, who is now a fugitive outside Iraq, of running a death squad.
Critics have long accused many political parties and figures of corruption or being involved in running militias so there are fears that just like Maliki unleashed charges against Hashemi, he could do the same to them ─ and create a full-fledged crisis in the country.
Other analysts believe that Maliki could turn to Article 4 in the constitution ─ which deals with terrorism against political figures or parties ─ to target his opponents.
Maliki could also resort to exploiting Arab-Kurdish tensions in a bid to thwart the no-confidence vote, said Abyadh. Maliki could pit Sunni Arabs in the northern province of Mosul against the Kurds and threaten to claim the disputed oil-rich city of Kirkuk.
Critics said that Maliki’s most recent visit to Mosul last month was a politically motivated one aimed at winning Arab support in northern Iraq against the Kurds.
Dubai-based political analyst, Amer al-Tamimi, said that “Talabani, like Maliki, is very strong … he has one leg in Iran and another in the United States.”
Abyadh, however, disagrees.
“If the majority of the political factions in Iraq agree to unseat Maliki, the United States cannot convince or stop them from doing so,” he said.
“If Maliki falls,” Tamimi said, “that there are two possible outcomes: one, a national partnership government will be formed or two, a struggle to agree on Maliki’s substitute will ensue which could lead to the setting up of a caretaker government.”