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Daily Column
Iraq Papers Mon: Combating Sectarianism
Premier Maliki Commits to Abolishing "Consociational Democracy"
By AMER MOHSEN 05/24/2009 6:31 PM ET
Al-Bayyna al-Jadeeda
Al-Bayyna al-Jadeeda
For the past year or so, Premier al-Maliki has been trying to present himself to the Iraqi public as a “statesman” who stands above factional quarrels, rejects sectarianism and corruption, and insists on the unity of Iraq under a strong central government. These slogans seemed to have worked during the recent provincial elections, especially in Shi'a Arab provinces where Maliki-supported lists made significant gains; and with the approaching legislative elections, the Prime Minister is intensifying his calls for the radical reform of the political system and its purging from “sectarian power-sharing.”

According to al-Hayat, Maliki called yesterday for “the ending of consociational democracy,” claiming that this system of sectarian power-sharing “brings about corruption.” During a meeting with the leaders of the Dulaim clan, al-Maliki said that “there should be a return to the constitution and the concept of competition,” exclaiming that Iraq should have a system of majority rule, with “a responsible government” flanked by “an effective opposition,” rather than the current regime where top state positions are distributed as sectarian “shares.”

This came a day after the Premier announced his intention to reform his governing cabinet, removing inefficient ministers and those that are alleged to be implicated in corruption. The Premier said on Friday that “the conditions are ripe for the building of a modern state.”

Al-Bayyna al-Jadeeda enthusiastically supported al-Maliki’s calls, featuring his statements against “consosciational democracy” on the front page. In addition, the editor-in-chief devoted his op-ed to defending the Premier’s perspective, noting that Iraq is following Lebanon’s footsteps by establishing a divisive, unstable, sectarian regime. The article was entitled “the I’tilaf, the Tawafuq and the Kurds are Iraq’s catastrophe,” and criticized the three main sectarian coalitions, arguing that such sectarian parties should be replaced by national political platforms.

However, the author’s criticisms of Shi'a and Sunni factions (Tawafuq and I’tilaf, respectively) cannot be compared to his attack against “Kurds” (without qualifications,) an indication of the widening gulf between Iraq’s two main ethnicities. After providing soft criticisms of the Shi'a I’tilaf (noting that it represents “some of the Shi'a leaders,”) and addressing the Sunni Tawafuq with a relatively harsher tone (accusing Sunni leaders of “being stuck in the past” and attempting to perpetuate “minority” – read “Sunni” – rule,) the paper’s editor-in-chief addressed “the Kurds” as “the only faction that is benefiting from the teetering political process, they still work on the tune of secession ... a day will come when they discover that ... they are the victims of Israeli-British dreams ... a day will come when graves are dug for everyone who helped a foreigner kill an Iraqi.”

On the other side, Kurds and Sunni Tawafuq leaders are made nervous by Maliki’s “reform” agenda. Az-Zaman relayed criticisms of his speeches, quoting President Talabani who affirmed today that “consociational democracy is the best for Iraq.” London-based al-Hayat also quoted Iraqi politicians who described Maliki’s words as “election talk.” A Kurdish MP told the daily that Maliki’s announcements of “cabinet reform” are “unrealistic” given that only a few months remain of his government’s mandate.

Government-owned As-Sabah, meanwhile, is ignoring these protests, claiming that the main political camps “are welcoming these efforts.” It should be noted that the Parliament is witnessing the interrogation of several ministers to question their performance and corruption allegations, with Az-Zaman claiming that up to seven ministers could be replaced in the upcoming shuffle.

On a parallel front, up to 11 MPs may also lose their seats after the Parliament voted to suspend their political immunity yesterday. This measure was taken following a request from the Supreme Judicial Council, which said that it wishes to interrogate these parliamentarians for allegations of “terrorism, corruption and libel.”

In security news, al-Hayat reports that an American national who works for the Department of Defense was found dead in the Green Zone, next to the US Embassy. Iraqi police sources say that the deceased was tied and stabbed multiple times.

Another civilian who works for the Defense Department was also killed in a missile strike that targeted the Green Zone. However, US officials who announced the incident did not say whether he was a US citizen or a foreign employee.


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