Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki has been given thirty days to form a new government, after President Jalal Talabani officially invited him to carry out the job.
Bargaining on how the government portfolios will be distributed among the different coalition partners will be intense, with the five so-called "sovereign" portfolios – foreign affairs, finance, oil, defence and interior and the security agencies – proving the most heated.
According to the Iraqi constitution Maliki must form his government in the allotted time or face dismissal by the president.
Talabani’s announcement came two weeks after Iraq's Shia, Kurdish and Sunni political leaders reached a power-sharing deal that gave Maliki, the leader of the State of Law Coalition, the premiership for a second term.
According to the new pact, the leader of the Iraqiya Coalition, Iyad Allawi, will chair a new body called the National Council for Strategic Policies, which must be established by special legislation. The deal granted Talabani, a Kurd, another term as president and Osama al-Nujaifi, a Sunni MP from Allawi's bloc, the speaker of parliament position.
But Allawi, himself, left the pact almost empty handed, with serious disagreements raging between the parliamentary supporters of Maliki and Allawi regarding the powers the proposed council should have – principally whether it should have "executive powers" or should serve primarily as a consultative body.
In an interview with Al-Arabiya channel, Allawi said that despite Iran's success in “denying him” the post of prime minister "the chapters of the game have not yet finished."
He also mentioned that Iran is doing everything possible to extricate him from the game, implying that the next step would be to create the new council without clear executive powers and with consultative mandates.
With its troops scheduled to withdraw from Iraq by 2012, the US has made it known that it supports a configuration which would ensure power sharing between the two largest blocs.
“Over the past few months, Allawi informed US officials publicly and privately that the current political system, created in 2003, is no longer capable of handling the new political climate” an American diplomat told Al Ahram Online.
He added that Allawi's proposal, at the time, seemed to need serious legal and constitutional changes which would be very difficult to accomplish under these circumstances. The proposal was primarily intended to create a power sharing scenario with Prime Minister Malaki “until there was room for the constitutional changes he proposed”.
Allawi's expectations that Tehran will stand against his new council seemed real after a senior Iranian official mentioned to the daily Al Sharq Al-Awast, that Tehran is not “satisfied with the new deal”.
The Iranian official stated that the new government would probably operate differently than the outgoing government, predicting it would better handle obstacles and be more lenient toward the Ba'thists.
Allawi refuted the Iranian argument alleging that Iran feared the council's mission, namely to curb Iranian influence on Iraqi policy-making.
But Tehran might have some real reasons to worry about Allawi’s bloc's influence in the new government, as Allawi’s bloc is expected to receive at least 11 posts in the new government.
“According to the new system set up to determine how many posts each bloc gets, the Iraqiya Coalition will receive 11 posts, two of which will be sovereign ministries” said parliament member Nahed El Dariny, a senior official within Allawi’s bloc.
She added that beside the ministry's posts, Allawi’s bloc will head the high profile security agencies.
Experts anticipate that Malaki, hoping to avoid dismissal, will form his government in the coming thirty days, but disagreements over the mandate of the National Council for Strategic Policies are expected to lead to a deadlock in Iraq as Allawi’s bloc might withdraw from both parliament and government leaving the country in a constitutional vacuum.