Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Allawi Looks to Lead the Opposition

Ex-premier sets up a shadow government to hold the new cabinet to account.
By Awadh al-Taee

After being shut out of cabinet positions in the new government, the party led by former prime minister Ayad Allawi is hoping to remain relevant by forming a shadow government.


Hussein al-Sadr, a National Assembly member of the Iraqi List, said the shadow government will be formed to reflect the party’s opposition to the new cabinet and to evaluate and critique its performance.


Allawi’s coalition, which represents largely secular Shia lawmakers, came in third in the January elections, behind the Kurdish Alliance List and the winner, the The United Iraqi Alliance, backed by Shia Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.


Ibrahim al-Ja’afari of the United Iraqi Alliance replaced Allawi as prime minister. He was spokesman for the al-Da’awa party, the oldest Shia Islamist movement.


During negotiations to form the government, Allawi’s coalition sought a deputy minister post, along with four ministries, but the parties could not reach an agreement. Disputes over Sunni participation in the new government and other issues held up the formation of a cabinet for three months.


The Iraqi List has yet to appoint its members to positions in the shadow cabinet, but is keen to start holding the government up to scrutiny.


“We can monitor and overlook the work of the ministries, and be aware of what is going on,” said al-Sadr.


Ali al-Dabbagh, a parliamentary deputy and member of the United Iraqi Alliance, said his coalition does not have problems with Allawi forming a shadow government, as it is part of the democratic process.


Dr Kasim Daud, national security consultant for Allawi’s caretaker government and a parliamentary deputy, said the Iraqi List will also play a legislative role, as eight of its parliamentary deputies are on the National Assembly committee charged with drafting the constitution.


“[We will help] push forward the political process in order to reach the stage of a permanent government and achieve the goals of a liberal, democratic, federal, united Iraq,” he said.


The Iraqi List says its open to other parties joining its shadow government.


"The List will play the role of leader of the opposition inside the parliament and it will be joined by many members of the National Assembly who agree with it,” al-Sadr said.


Although the Iraqi List is the main opposition party, its members did vote to approve the new government, after which cabinet members were sworn in on April 28.


“We voted for the government because delaying the announcement of a government would have led to serious economic and security consequences,” said al-Sadr. “But this voting does not mean absolute support of Ja’afari’s government. We support the government when it makes correct decisions.”


Political analyst Hasan al-Bazaz said he expected the Iraqi List to “be a powerful player in the parliament”.


And Mohammed al-Askari, another political analyst, said Allawi still has a political future.


“Governments come and go and the Iraqi List could be back if Allawi forms an honest national opposition that’s constructive and not trying to cause the downfall of the current government for political purposes,” he said.


Many of the Iraqis IWPR spoke to said it was too early to establish a shadow government, as the new cabinet needed to be given a chance to prove itself.


“I suggest that the shadow government be postponed until after the forthcoming general elections,” said former Iraqi Republican Guard officer Ali Abbas, 45.


Sana Rasool, 46, who runs the Al-Hamra Internet cafe, said, “The new elected government must have enough time so that we know what they can provide for the people, in terms of security and reconstruction.”


Awadh al-Taee is an IWPR trainee in Baghdad.