Iraqi government approves power-sharing deal eight months after elections

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

On Saturday, the Iraqi parliament approved a power-sharing agreement, after eight months of negotiations.

The agreement, reached on Tuesday, appeared to be falling apart on Thursday after the Sunni-backed al-Iraqiya List, led by Ayad Allawi, walked out of the parliamentary session, expressing disappointment that the parliament had not voted upon the power-sharing agreement before voting for the president. Allawi then spoke to CNN, telling the network that they viewed the power-sharing process to be "dead" and that they were expecting more "tensions and violence".

Iraqis went to the polls on March 7 to elect members of the Council of Representatives. In this election, the al-Iraqiya List won 91 seats, becoming the largest party in the parliament. However, in order to form a government, a party needs to hold 163 seats in the 325 seat Council. The Shia-Backed State of Law Coalition, led by current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the Kurdish-supported Kurdistan List, led by Dr. Barham Salih, won 89 and 43 seats respectively, giving them more seats together than al-Iraqiya, but still far from enough to form a government.

Eight months of disagreement on coalition-forming culminated in a compromise on Thursday in which Nouri al-Maliki would remain Prime Minister of Iraq, while Ayad Allawi would become leader of the new National Council for Strategic Policies, offering "a check on al-Maliki's power". President Jalal Talabani would retain his position as well. Lawmakers also elected al-Iraqiya member Osama al-Nujaifi as Parliamentary Speaker. The problems began when al-Iraqiya believed the election of al-Nujaifi as Speaker was insufficient representation for the party in Parliament. This coupled with the fact that the rest of the parliament voted down the request to vote on the power-sharing agreement, led members of al-Iraqiya to walk out of the parliamentary session. Foreign Diplomats and Iraqi politicians have been scrambling to try and salvage the agreement. Al-Iraqiya announced its plans on Saturday to boycott the parliamentary session on Saturday.

On Saturday al-Iraqiya returned to the negotiating table; a spokesman for al-Iraqiya characterised the walkout as a "misunderstanding". With the help of al-Iraqiya, the parliament approved the power-sharing agreement agreed upon by the parties, as well as beginning to lift the ban on Ba'athist politicians in the parliament — which the Sunni population had felt unfairly targeted them.