The statements made by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki last week, and in which he reiterated, for the second time, his criticism of the system of consensual democracy, as well as that of quotas, have given rise to diverse reactions. Some reject the idea for fear of a return to "monopolization of power and dictatorship," while others consider it as a reorganization of political life in anticipation of the elections.
Asma al-Musawi, member of the Political Bureau of the Al-Sadr Trend, which had withdrawn its ministers from the Al-Maliki government, in addition to its withdrawal from the Unified Iraqi Coalition that includes the Al-Maliki-led Al-Dawa Party, says: "Initially, after the National Assembly, and during the second Parliament mandate, the principle of participation in the political process was in force, but some parties have turned it into a quota system. This has [adversely] affected the legislative and executive powers in the country, and many problems have been caused by the quota system that turned the democracy sought by any Iraqi into a democracy where the [political] parties seek consensus among them on their respective quotas in government." Asma affirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat that the quota system was the reason for the withdrawal of the Al-Sadr Trend ministers from the government, stressing that "the quota system can never succeed in Iraq."
In this connection, Al-Maliki previously called for a return to the presidential system, which means holding elections for the direct election of a president, by the people, and which means also giving the president extensive prerogatives which have been largely curtailed by the Iraqi Constitution. Concerning Al-Maliki's call, Asma says that "a return to the presidential system, in lieu of the parliamentary one, needs a decision by all the political blocs in Iraq. Such a decision would be followed by legislation and then by an amendment of the Constitution, which now provides for a parliamentary system."
For his part, Ali al-Hatim, chief of the Al-Dulaym tribes in Iraq and chairman of the Council of Chieftains and Tribes, and who participated as a leader of the Awakening groups in Al-Anbar in the fight against the Al-Qaeda Organization, welcomed Al-Maliki's call to abolish consensual democracy. He told Asharq Al-Awsat that "consensual democracy has proved to be a failure in Iraq, and that it is the main cause of past and present problems in the country," pointing out that "many political blocs bring to mind the dictatorship principle each time they think that their interests might be threatened by a return of the presidential system, through elections, to replace the parliamentary system."
Al-Hatim stresses that "some have stolen Iraq in the name of the consensual democracy that has been introduced by the American forces in Iraq, and that has proved that it has failed," calling for the adoption of a presidential system, through elections, and taking into consideration that "the person chosen by the people will be qualified to lead Iraq and political action in the country."
It should be noted that the tribes and the Awakening organizations in Iraq had entered into a fierce competition with the Iraqi Islamic Party, which is led by Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, in the local elections that were held last January. These forces and other Sunni quarters accuse the Islamic party of "grabbing" all the posts allocated for the Sunni Arabs in the Iraqi Government, under the principle of consensual democracy. In fact, if elections were to be held, the Islamic Party might not win any significant sovereignty-related post.
For his part, Firyad Rawanduzi, Deputy for the Kurdistan Alliance, has told Asharq Al-Awsat that the presidential system called for by the prime minister is prestigious and successful, but in a society with many ethnic minorities, many sects, and many nationalities, as is the case in Iraq, such a system cannot be used to establish a democratic rule on the basis of majority and minority considerations."
Furthermore, Rawanduzi asks: "If majority rule democracy is adopted, and the Shiites take power, for instance, where would the Kurds and the Sunnis go, then? And suppose that an alliance is concluded between the Shiites and the Kurds, where would the Sunni's role be then? Would they be excluded from government?"
Rawanduzi further says that "Iraq is like a triangle: removing any side from partnership in government would mean the elimination of Iraq."
For his part, Basim Sharif, deputy for the Al-Fadilah Party, affirms that "Al-Maliki's call is warranted, but it needs steps and study by all," but he adds that "consensual democracy is neither negative nor positive, even though it has been adopted, mainly because of the current situation in Iraq. Moreover, consensual democracy is not suitable to be adopted as a strategy or as an instrument of action for the future. Majority rule democracy should be used only at a specific stage. We should call entities by their political names, not their sect names, and we should consider citizens as free to choose whom they want; so, we can move to the majority rules system."