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Bitter Maliki-Nujaifi exchanges strain political system

With Iraqi parliamentary elections set to take place in less than two months, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's relationships with both Council of Representatives Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi and Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani are going from bad to worse.
Iraq's parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, Iraq's Vice President Tareq al-Hashimi and Head of the Sunni Endowment Ahmed Abdul-Ghafoor al-Samarraie (4th R-R) attend a ceremony to mark the birth anniversary of Prophet Mohammed at Um al-Qura mosque in Baghdad February 15, 2011. REUTERS/Mohammed Ameen (IRAQ - Tags: POLITICS RELIGION) - RTR2IMJK
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In a deeply divided country whose main parties rely on identity politics to renew their legitimacy, electoral seasons usually constitute an opportunity for ethnic and sectarian mobilization. Political parties and leaders, which present themselves as protectors of their “communities,” increasingly tend to adopt inflexible policies and exaggerate in their confrontational stances.

This is what is happening today in the confrontation between Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and parliament Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, and between Maliki and Iraqi Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani. The matter is not restricted to the mobilization of electoral bases, but also includes attempts to set the stage for a post-election negotiation phase. The current strictness in policies stems from a feeling that there is no political value in showing flexibility and giving up pressure cards at this stage. The elections in Iraq have become a prelude for laborious negotiations aiming at distributing main positions and ranks. Each party is getting ready for this stage by gathering pressure cards against its enemies.

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