Iraq government continues to falter; no-confidence vote next?

CBS reports that members of the Iraqi Accord Front (IAF), the largest Sunni bloc in Iraq’s parliament, will call for a vote of no confidence for Prime Minister Maliki next week. CBS says a “broad political alliance” called the “Iraq Project,” apparently led by the IAF, claims it has the votes to pass the no-confidence vote.

Frustratingly, the report doesn’t identify the parties that (allegedly?) make up the Iraq Project. For a no-confidence motion to come to the floor, either 50 members of parliament (OR the prime minister and president, though obviously that’s not the case here) must call for such a vote. There are enough Sunni representatives to reach that number, with the 44 IAF members joined by 11 in the National Dialogue Front, and even some disaffected Shia may also move to bring a full floor vote on no-confidence. In the event of the passage of a no-confidence vote, the government is considered resigned. It’s important to note that this would not trigger new elections for the entire parliament, but — as far as I understand — would necessitate the formation of a new governing coalition that would have to achieve a majority. That majority coalition would then nominate a new prime minister, and by any math I can figure, it would still be a ruling combination of primarily Shia and Kurds.

But to pass a vote of no-confidence, an absolute majority (138 of the 275 members) is required. I just do not see the votes. The Kurds will not support it, as they have no interest in throwing the government into further chaos, so that’s 58 against. I seriously doubt SIIC (formerly SCIRI) will vote with the Sunnis to depose a Shia PM, despite Maliki’s ineffectiveness, which is roughly 30, plus Dawa (Maliki’s party) has 15, for a total of 103 opposing. Even if all the Sunnis and the smaller parties join together, that’s only about 60 votes, with the rest being Shia parties, including Sadrists, the Virtue Party, and Allawi’s secular Iraqi National List. I don’t think the Sunnis will get enough defections from those groups for a no-confidence motion to pass.

They may succeed in getting the vote, however, and it will be very interesting to see where the parties line up. Further, the report claims that Cheney “discussed in detail” this possibility with Tariq Hashimi, one of the leaders of the IAF, but it does not say what his reaction was to the plan. A failed vote of no confidence might actually strengthen Maliki, especially if it forced Shia parties to publicly decide between him and voting with the Sunni bloc, but it’s certainly not a good sign that over a year into Maliki’s tenure he still has not consolidated enough power to obviate this kind of maneuver.

Most importantly, the stated goal of the escalation was to provide room for political progress. It is manifestly not doing that.

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