September 15th, 2007

vote at your own risk

Party over?

This can't qualify as good news. Moqtada al-Sadr has pulled all the parliamentarians of his party out of the Iraqi government. From Reuters (via
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The political movement loyal to anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr quit Iraq's ruling Shi'ite Alliance on Saturday, leaving Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's coalition in a precarious position in parliament.

The move further weakens the ruling coalition, which even before the defection had failed to push through laws aimed at reconciling Iraq's warring majority Shi'ite and minority Sunni Arabs.

Maliki's government now enjoys the support of only about half of Iraq's 275 lawmakers, although it could survive with the support of a handful of independent lawmakers.

"The political committee has declared the withdrawal of the Sadr bloc from the (Shi'ite) alliance because there was no visible indication that the demands of Sadr's bloc were being met," the Sadr movement said in a statement released at a news conference in the holy Shi'ite city of Najaf.
Reuters says that the Iraqi government now only has "about half" of the 275 lawmakers, but doesn't give the precise number. The BBC's story does give a number:
The Sadr block withdrawal leaves the prime minister with support from 136 MPs, including those from two Kurdish parties.
Now, correct me if my math is off, but 136 out of 275 sure sounds like a minority government to me. And in parliamentary systems, minority governments are infamous for finding it incredibly difficult to make hard policy choices. The ordinary, day-to-day business of governing is made trickier by not having the votes to pass legislation.

Maliki's government has already demonstrated its inability to forge an Iraqi national consensus on the hard issues (oil revenues, provincial goverments, Kirkuk, etc.). I really can't see the Sadrist pullout as improving that government's performance ...