A new chapter or more of the same?

Tango in Baghdad: Maliki steps up, Halbousi holds his ground

BAGHDAD, 25 December — In the wake of the provincial council elections, the new political typography of the country is taking shape, with Former Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, poised to regain governance of the capital. The return of Nouri al-Maliki’s party as the governor of Baghdad is now a widely accepted outcome, with both opponents of the State of Law (1) and allies within the Coordination Framework acknowledging this reality. Insiders confirmed to 964media that the formula is agreed upon before the provincial council elections.

The Role and Gains of Mohammed al-Halbousi:

Despite al-Maliki’s expected governance, the importance of the achievements of Mohammed al-Halbousi, the ousted Parliament Speaker, cannot be underestimated. Al-Halbousi’s Taqaddum (2) Party, based on preliminary results, has secured 12 seats in Baghdad. The Coordination Framework, in anticipation of the final election outcomes, has already announced a comprehensive coalition in the governorates to ensure an absolute majority and offset al-Halbousi’s unexpected gains.

Sunni Parties’ Concerns and Bilateral Negotiations:

While Sunni parties expressed concerns about potential alterations in the election results, the Coordination Framework remains confident about its position in Baghdad. Members of the winning Shiite and Sunni blocs spoke to 964media about the ongoing bilateral negotiations, emphasizing that the real work will commence once the final election results are announced by IHEC.

Challenges for Al-Halbousi’s Party:

Al-Halbousi’s party is facing significant difficulties in forming alliances with Sunni forces that opposed him during the parliamentary speaker position crisis. Despite this, the Coordination Framework has decided to grant al-Maliki the governor’s position, with discussions about offering “other positions” to al-Halbousi in Baghdad.

Insights from Political Figures:

The head of the “Taqadum” bloc, Yahya Al-Muhammadi, refused to comment on the issue of negotiations before the final results were announced. However Aqeel al-Fatlawi, MP, speaking in his personal capacity not as a State of Law Coalition spokesperson, told 964media:

“The Coordination Framework has agreements among its forces regarding the governorates and understandings with other blocs in mixed governorates. They aim to create a political combination with the “Taqaddum” party to create a healthy environment in Baghdad, whether in the local government or the provincial council. The direction of Al-Maliki’s coalition was clear from the beginning, and the initial understandings – before the elections – were that the governor would be for the State of Law, and the framework did not change its opinion in this regard. It is likely that the “State of Law” coalition will win the position of governor in Baghdad. Although the actual negotiations have not begun yet, there are important talks between the decision-makers in “State of Law” and “Taqaddum.” If “Taqaddum” agrees to a governor from the “rule of law,” they will not be left without a position, and there are many important positions in Baghdad. If Parliament had decided on a replacement speaker for Al-Halbousi before the elections, the understandings would have been easier now. This issue will be an influential factor in the negotiations over Baghdad governorate positions.

Ali Jassim Al-Hamidawi, from Al-Hikma Trend (3), told 964media:

The coordination framework will govern Baghdad, based on the results, but we will not deviate from the political balance and the merits of the components. Baghdad is the capital of Iraq and must be managed by everyone, but the framework forces are the ones who appoint the governor, and this is a settled decision. “Taqaddum” is an important bloc and will receive a significant entitlement based on its electoral weight in the Provincial Council. Whatever the results of alliances or understandings between Taqadum and other Sunni components, the governor post is for the Coordination Framework.

Khaled Al-Mufarji, spokesman for “Siyada (Sovereignty),” (4) outlined to 964media:

The Coordination Framework decided its position and announced the formation of a comprehensive bloc in all the governorates. In Baghdad, they will have about 27 active members, and there is no other bloc with this number. The Sunni blocs will be forced to form alliances to achieve balance in Baghdad, because their entry alone will make it difficult for them to work and they will not be able to do anything in front of the framework. Negotiations between the Sunni blocs are underway to form a bloc in the mixed governorates, and there are understandings that began early between “State of Law” and “Taqaddum,” but they will not succeed in agreeing on a formula without the other blocs. We will return to this scenario in Baghdad; There are two main blocs, the first represents the state of law and its allies within the framework, and the second represents Taqaddum and Sovereignty and other Sunni forces in Azm (5) and Hasm (6).

Political sources close to the coordination framework negotiations, told 964media that Baghdad will be as follows:

The Coordination Framework in Baghdad, headed by Al-Maliki’d bloc, will get the Governor of Baghdad with 25 seats, and the Deputy Head of the Council.

“Taqaddum” will receive the Head of the Council and the Deputy Governor, as is the previous setup;

The Coordination Framework has agreed to distribute governorate positionsas in other areas as follows:

Abshr Ya Iraq (7): Al-Muthanna

State of law: Baghdad, Basra and Najaf

Makina (Machine) (8) : Nasiriyah.

Nabni (9): Maysan

The final election results will be pivotal in finalizing these political arrangements, marking a new chapter in Iraq’s political narrative.

Footnotes: The blocs mentioned in the report:

1. State of Law, Headed by Nuri Al-Maliki.

2. Taqaddum, Headed by ousted Parliament Speaker Mohammed Al-Halbousi.

3. Alhikma Trend, A Shiite party lead by Ammar Al-Hakim.

4. Siyada (Sovereignty): A Sunni party led by businessman Khamis Al-Khanjar, who has a fragile alliance with Al-Halbousi.

5. Azm (Resolve): A Sunni list whose influence is concentrated in Salah al-Din, Kirkuk, and Diyala, and is led by businessman Muthanna al-Samarrai. It has a strong rivalry with Khanjar.

6. Hasm: A Sunni electoral list led by Iraqi Defense Minister Thabet Al-Abbasi.

7. Abshr Ya Iraq: A Shiite electoral list led by Humam Hamoudi, leader of the Supreme Islamic Council in Iraq.

8. Makina (Machine): An electoral list that includes groups close to the Popular Mobilization Force with Shibl al-Zaidi and Abu Alaa al-Wala’i as main figures.

9. Nabni (We build): One of the largest electoral lists affiliated with the Coordination Framework and includes Hadi Al-Amiri and Qais Al-Khazali.