Uncertainty as Iraq election results revealed – Al Jazeera

My story for Al Jazeera with Suadad al-Salhy on the Iraq election results and political implications. I reported from Erbil.

Iraq’s incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s apparent victory in parliamentary elections at the end of April has given him a leading role in forming the next government, but it will not necessarily secure him a third term in office. Shia, Sunni and Kurdish political rivals may back him if their demands are met, despite deep internal divisions and ongoing disputes.

Shia Muslim parties, including al-Islah and al-Fadhilah, are in talks with Maliki’s State of Law coalition to revive the “National Alliance” that formed the 2010 administration. Under constitutional rules, this would create a big enough bloc to nominate a prime minister and form a new government.

“If Shia blocs are unified, the next parliament and government will be strong and the ceiling of Kurdish and Sunni demands will be lower,” Abdulwahid Tuama, an independent political analyst, told Al Jazeera.

His rivals, however, including fellow Shia Muslims sympathetic to the State of Law alliance, strongly oppose Maliki’s bid for a third term.

“We do not support Maliki for another term and we asked the National Alliance to nominate someone else,” said Mohammed al-Hamdani, a senior Sadrist leader. “He did not serve the people and did not deliver on his promises to the other political blocs.”

Sunni parties performed poorly in the election as they ran during a time of deep internal divisions. The leading Sunni Mutahidoun list, headed by parliamentary speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, won only 23 seats across the country.

Maliki may also need the help of the Kurds to form a new government. Kurdish parties won 62 seats in the new parliament, but relations between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Baghdad have become increasingly strained as the Kurds push for more financial independence. Read more on the Al Jazeera website.

Iraqi Kurdistan gambles on oil and Baghdad’s benevolence – CS monitor

My latest story for CS monitor. Iraqi Kurdistan is risking the loss of its share of Iraq’s national budget to secure greater independence and the right to manage its own oil.

Although oil exports could net the Kurdistan Regional Government a healthy revenue stream, for now it cannot plug the gap if Baghdad continues to withhold the 17 percent of the national budget that it provides to Kurdistan every year. That revenue makes up the largest chunk of the Kurdish region’s budget, even though the Kurds say they regularly receive much less than promised.