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April 5, 2005
More Iraqi Movement Towards Government

The Iraqi National Assembly took another big step towards seating its first democratically elected government in decades today, agreeing to the key positions of the presidency and two vice-presidents and enabling the Assembly to finally select a prime minister:

The assembly is expected to name Jalal Talabani, a Kurdish leader, as president; Adel Abdul Mahdi, a prominent Shiite Arab politician, as vice president; and Sheik Ghazi al-Yawar, the Sunni Arab president of the interim government, as the other vice president, said Hussein al-Shahristani, an assembly vice speaker.

The agreement ends a stark impasse between the main parties that had threatened to wreck the confidence built during the Jan. 30 elections, when Iraqis defied insurgent threats to walk in droves to polling stations. The Iraqi public has shown increasing impatience with the gridlock, and American military commanders have warned that a continued lack of a government could lead to a rise in insurgent violence. ...

The president and vice presidents, who make up the presidency council, will have two weeks to name a prime minister, who would then select a cabinet. The new government would have to be approved by a majority vote of the assembly.

The new PM will almost surely be Shi'ite Ibrahim Jaafari; the turnout of the electorate demands that the executive be led by a Shi'ite. That will end centuries of oppression in Iraq for the Shi'a, who have chafed under Sunni domination since the beginnings of the Ottoman Empire. The Kurds, on the other hand, get what they wanted in the presidency. As Edward Wong writes, the post will have great influence over the writing of the new, permanent constitution, and the Kurds want to ensure their autonomy in a federal system. That, and having Kirkuk moved into the Kurdish province, are the two great goals of the Iraqi Kurds.

What of the Sunni? They got one of the VP positions, a key for their participation. Despite his earlier protest that he would not accept the position, interim president and Sunni Ghazi al-Yawer took the open VP position. That means all three major sects will be represented in the "presidency council", which will formally select the PM. More importantly, they will bargain with Jaafari for cabinet positions in order to work as many of their ministers into key government appointments as possible. Whatever damage the Sunni did by boycotting the election, they cannot say now that they lacked influence on the eventual outcome of the government.

The Iraqis appear to be learning the ropes, perhaps not as quickly as we would prefer, but remarkable under the circumstances nonetheless. The real point of interest will be to see who winds up with the Oil Ministry. Expect to see plenty of interest from all three major sects in getting high-level appointments in that bureaucracy.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 5, 2005 8:46 PM

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