A bitter row over Iraq’s election watchdog has strained the ruling coalition government of the prime minister, Nouri Al Maliki, underlining an acrimonious struggle to control the country.
In the aftermath of a parliamentary vote last week over dissolving the Independent High Electoral Commission (Ihec), critics and supporters of Mr Al Maliki have rounded on each other with allegations of deceit, corruption and sectarianism.
The argument centres on a proposal by the State of Law alliance, the group headed by the prime minister, to pass a vote of no confidence in Ihec over fraud claims. If approved, the measure would have effectively sacked the United Nations supported watchdog – the body in charge of ensuring fair and transparent elections in the country.
In the run up to the vote, which took place last week, various blocs from across the political spectrum had indicated they would support the motion.
Most of Iraq’s politicians have quarrelled with Ihec at one time or another and, following last year’s national elections, both Mr Al Maliki and Iraqiyya, his principal rivals, levelled charges of malfeasance against the watchdog, each accusing it of illegally favouring their opponent.
A backroom deal over sacking Ihec officials appeared to have been struck in advance of the vote, resulting in confident predictions that a majority of MPs would support the move. The motion failed, however, with the support of only 94 of the 245 politicians.
That outcome was widely seen as a personal blow to Mr Al Maliki and a signal that parliament, including members of the prime minister’s own ruling National Alliance, are worried about an increasing concentration of power in his hands.