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Iraq’s Power-Sharing Government Facing Tensions, Iraqiyah Says

Former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi is frustrated with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki because he isn’t upholding his vow to share power in a unity government, a senior member of Allawi’s Iraqiyah bloc said.

Al-Maliki is “circumventing agreements,” Falah Hassan Zeidan said in an interview in Baghdad today. Iraqi leaders came up with a power-sharing formula in December after nine months of talks following inconclusive parliamentary elections last March. As part of the deal, Allawi was named to head a National Strategic Policy Council, a job he said he no longer wants in a televised address on March 3.

The creation of the panel was a U.S. initiative aimed at placating Allawi after he was unable to secure the premiership even after winning the most seats in the elections. Allawi, a secular Shiite Muslim, won the support of Sunni Arabs whose inclusion in the government is seen as key to stability.

Iraqiyah wants the council to have decision-making powers and not “be honorific,” Zeidan said. “Allawi won’t agree to any job unless it gives him genuine authority within the framework of genuine partnership.”

While Allawi probably won’t pull out of the government unless he finds support from another powerful faction, there has been a rapprochement between him and Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, Ali al-Saffar, an Iraqi analyst at the London-based Economist Intelligence Unit, said. If they were to leave the government together, “the impact would be devastating,” he said today by telephone.

Moqtada al-Sadr

Al-Sadr, a former militia leader who heads a bloc of 40 lawmakers, said about two months ago that he was giving al-Maliki six months to prove himself.

The uncertainty comes amid street rallies across Iraq calling for greater accountability from politicians and better services. Several people have died in clashes with security forces. Al-Maliki responded by redirecting $900 million from a jet-fighter program to support food subsidies. The Cabinet also presented a bill to parliament to reduce government wages.

Zeidan said Iraqiyah supports the rallies, describing them as “natural and popular.” Parliament will study their causes on March 10, he said. Unlike demonstrations elsewhere in the Middle East, the Iraqi protests haven’t included calls for the overthrow of al-Maliki’s government.

In their session on March 10, lawmakers will also present the names of candidates for the defense, interior and national security ministerial posts, he said. Al-Maliki has overseen these ministries since the elections.

Al-Maliki’s State of Law alliance won 89 seats to Iraqiyah’s 91 in the elections, while Kurdish parties took 43. State of Law merged with former Shiite rivals, gaining a combined total of 159 seats, and later drew in lawmakers from other groups to get the 163 seats needed for a governing coalition in the 325-seat parliament.

Iraqiyah now has 85 lawmakers and nine cabinet posts, following the withdrawal from the bloc yesterday, Zeidan said.

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