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Sunday, March 13, 2005

The Honeymoon Is Over 

Juan Cole reports that the nascent parliamentary coalition of Shiites and Kurds has collapsed, allegedly because the Kurds reneged on the terms they had negotiated with the United Iraqi Alliance. He blames the current state of gridlock on the U.S.'s "artificial requirement" that a new government can only be formed with a two-thirds majority:
The issues over which the deal collapsed include the disposition of the oil rich city of Kirkuk, demands that the Kurds have a bigger share of cabinet posts, the retention of the Kurdish paramilitary or peshmergas in the Kurdish regions, retention of a greater share of the petroleum revenues of the north, and the fears of the Kurds that the UIA will attempt to establish a theocracy. The Kurds insist on resolving all these issues in writing before the formation of a government. It seems to me that the Kurdish leaders engaged in what is called "low-balling" in automobile sales. The dealer gives the customer the impression that a much lower price can be had than is actually possible, to attach the customer to the idea of owning the vehicle. Then when a commitment has formed, the salesman goes to see his boss and comes back with the sad news that he just couldn't get the price down as far as he had hoped. But after all, the customers had already come so far toward a purchase, what is $1000 between friends? The Kurdish negotiators seem to have low-balled the Shiites, and now they are saying, ooops, no deal, we need you to give up even more than you bargained for.
Cole points out that under the British parliamentary system, the United Iraqi Alliance, which will wind up controlling roughly 53% of the seats in parliament, would already have formed a new government with Ibrahim Jaafari as PM:
The US spiked the Iraqi parliamentary process by putting in a provision that a government has to be formed with a 2/3s majority. This provision is a neo-colonial imposition on Iraq. The Iraqi public was never asked about it. And, it is predictably producing gridlock, as the UIA is forced to try to accommodate a party that should be in the opposition in the British system, the Kurdistan Alliance.

Likewise, in France, a simple majority of the National Assembly can dismiss the cabinet. Likewise in India. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the 2/3s super-majority is characteristic of only one nation on earth, i.e. American Iraq. I fear it is functioning in an anti-democratic manner to thwart the will of the majority of Iraqis, who braved great danger to come out and vote.

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