Alwaght- Early in February when Iraq's President Barham Saleh named Mohammad Tawfiq Allawi as the new PM, the country embraced a sense of optimism that the new head of the cabinet could mend the situation and lead the nation out of the several-months crisis. But Allawi stepped down from the position when he failed to form a new government within the one-month deadline.
After the Iraqi parliament for the third time delayed its session to vote confidence to the new cabinet on Sunday, Allawi announced his resignation. Now that Tawfiq has quitted his position as PM, the Iraqis hopes to see a new government is shattered. The nation is back to square one.
This resignation gives rise to a question: Why did Allawi fail to form a government? Or to be more precise, what were the considerations that the new PM failed to take in his search for a vote of the parliament confidence? Three main reasons appear to have led Allawi to this point:
Disregarding coalition government convention, up since 2003
Definitely, the most important convention governing the Iraqi political system since the collapse of Saddam Hussein in 2003 has been the “coalition government” convention. According to this agreed-upon protocol, nationwide decisions are not made based on the majority-minority principle. Before going to the parliament for debates and decisions, important matters are discussed and agreed upon by the Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds outside the parliament.
The big mistake by Allawi was his thought that as a result of several-months of public protests and pressures it was time to move beyond this principle and form a technocratic government independent from the dominant political powerhouses and parties.
Actually, Allawi’s refusal to seriously engage in negotiations with the home political titans caused a decline by the parliament to form its sessions to discuss a vote of confidence needed by the new PM. The Iraqi politics realities demonstrate that anyone as a PM who wants to form a government should take into consideration the power of the political parties. The reality is that the technocratic government slogan just has public consumption and does not work when it comes to dealing with political parties and governance.
Ignoring some parties’ stances
Another issue that brought failure to Allawi in his struggle for government formation was the severe Kurdish and Sunni Arab opposition to his premiership. Naming Allawi for the post was an outcome of an agreement between Muqtada al-Sadr, the head of the Saeroon bloc, and Hadi al-Amiri, the head of Fatah bloc. But since the beginning of the efforts to form a new, non-partisan government, the Sunni as well as the Kurdish parties opposed him being the head of the government. They argued that Allawi's nomination was a result of an inter-Shiite deal where Saeroon and Fattah blocs were engaged and that he anticipated no Sunni and Kurdish involvement in the determination of his government ministers.
These two identity groups since the beginning stipulated that they will offer patronage to Allawi only if they were granted the right to directly name their representatives, otherwise they would not attend the parliamentary sessions. Even though the new PM had discussions with the Sunnis and Kurds, he failed to win their support for his government. The failure led to boycott of the parliament’s confidence vote sessions. Some Shiite sides also backed the boycott, leading to the collapse of Allawi efforts.
Allawi lacks personal charisma and political fame
Allawi lacked the personal charisma necessary to make him approved by the political circles. For example, his predecessor Adel Abdul Mahdi has a record of struggle against the Baathist dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. When he was named as a new PM, all political parties supported him immediately. But Allawi lacks a considerable record in Iraqi politics. He was never welcomed as an approved candidate by the street protesters while the demand during the demonstrations was that the new PM should be the “choice of the street.”
Moreover, it should be taken into consideration that Allawi gained only 501 votes in the 2018 parliamentary elections, indicating he lacked acceptibility position both in the eyes of the public and also the political circles. He found out that reliance on the political power of some groups would not bring his efforts any success. The head of the Green Zone-based palace should certainly have levels of legitimacy, acceptance, and prominence among the political factions.