April 3, 2005

Iraq Political Deadlock Breaks

The new Iraqi parliament made significant progress this morning towards forming a governing coalition. They selected Hajem al-Hassani, a Sunni, as their new Speaker of Parliament and have settled on all but one vice-presidential position that has been designated to the Sunni as well:

In a ballot, the members of the 275-seat National Assembly voted overwhelmingly to elect Hajem al-Hassani, the current industry minister, as speaker. Hassani, a religious Sunni, is an ally of Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.

"We passed the first hurdle," Hassani told reporters afterwards. "The Iraqi people have proven that they can overcome the political crisis that has plagued the country for the last two months."

But he also warned against complacency.

"If we neglect our responsibilities and fail, we will hurt ourselves and the people will replace us with others," he said.

Shi'ite politician Hussain Shahristani and Kurdish lawmaker Arif Tayfor were elected deputy speakers. The Shi'ites and Kurds, who came first and second in the Jan. 30 election, had agreed between them that a member of the once-dominant Sunni Arab minority should be speaker.

As Dick Cheney said a week ago, the Iraqis have been frustrated by the slow progress, but the simple fact is that Iraqis have little experience in multiparty electoral and parliamentary politics. They have not developed the skills necessary to effect the kinds of compromises and coalition-building required to effectively form parliamentary governments. The only way to learn is to actually do it, and it appears that the Iraqi politicians may have worked their way through the first try.

The other positions will fall into place rather quickly, with the posts expected to gain approval in the next session of the National Assembly. A Kurd will be named president, Jalal Talabani, and a Shi'ite will take on the more powerful position of Prime Minister, Ibrahim Jaafari. The Shi'ites and Kurds took care to ensure participation of all three major sects in the new government, even though the Sunni wound up with less than ten percent of the seats in the Assembly due to their boycott. By the end of this week, they should be in a position to determine who will fill the ministry posts, which will then complete the transition to a popularly-elected government for the Iraqi people.


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» "We Passed the First Hurdle" from Cyber-Conservative
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