Still, the way the stalemate over a new government has played out certainly raises questions over the extent of commitment among Iraq's political leaders to peace and democracy. The two biggest vote-winning coalitions — former Prime Minster Ayad Allawi's Iraqyya list, which won 91 seats in the 325-seat Council of Representatives, and incumbent Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's State of Law coalition, which won 89 — have almost identical platforms calling for a strong central state. Though each has a different sectarian hue — Iraqya's support base is more strongly Sunni, while State of Law is more strongly Shi'ite — both are moderate enough and sufficiently non-sectarian that they could join forces tomorrow to create a governing majority that ought to please most of their supporters. Allawi and Maliki, in fact, met on Tuesday to discuss such a prospect. But once again, the discussion remained deadlocked, because both men want to be prime minister, and neither is ready to compromise for the good of the country.I can't help contrast the situation in Iraq with the situation in the UK, where, following a hung election, it took less than a week for political elites to agree on a coalition government. I guess that's the difference between a country having long-experience with norms of democratic culture, and not having that experience.
Instead, Maliki and Allawi are playing factional politics, negotiating with avowedly sectarian or ethnically oriented groups in search of a majority coalition. Maliki has united with the conservative Islamist Shi'ite parties that favor more autonomy for Shi'ite majority southern Iraq, though he still doesn't have enough votes to form a government because radical cleric Muqtada al Sadr, who controls the largest faction within the Shi'ite coalition, refuses to accept Maliki staying on as prime minister. For his part, Allawi is flirting not only with Sadr (on Monday, the two men met in Damascus and called for Maliki to step aside) but also the Kurds. This is surprising because Allawi and the Kurds were major rivals during the election and remain ideological opposites. (Allawi favors centralization in Baghdad, while the Kurds want more autonomy for Kurdish northern Iraq.)
Nevertheless, earlier this month, Allawi met with Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani and announced the need for a sort of national unity government that would include a broad array of parties, no doubt including the Kurds.
To update myself on the security impacts of the situation in Iraq, I turned again to the Brookings Iraq Index, which has data for many indices through the end of June. Probably the most significant graph is for Iraqi civilian fatalities:
I added the May and June numbers to Brooking's graph by hand. There seems to have been a very slight uptick in the spring, but not enough to be of major concern. A similar picture appears for attacks on the US coalition troops:
Similarly, multiple fatality bombings have had a mini-surge in the spring, but nowhere near the levels of 2006, or even last summer: