Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat- Tariq al-Hashimi, vice president and leader of the Renewal Bloc that is affiliated with the Al-Iraqiya List headed by Iyad Allawi, has said that the delay in the formation of the Iraqi government following the elections of 17 March “is because of the side that is putting wedges in the wheel, clinging to power, interpreting the constitution according to its whims, and refusing to recognize the results of the elections”. In a statement to Asharq Al-Awsat, Al-Hashimi affirmed that the Al-Iraqiya List, which won the elections, will not participate in the new government if it is bypassed in the process of the formation. He added that the Kurdish Alliance and other components recognized the right of the Al-Iraqiya List [to form the government] but behind closed doors and distant from public announcements. Al-Hashimi went on to say that there is no need for a compromise candidate because the candidate of the Al-Iraqiya List who will form the government is qualified enough and has all the components of success. Following is the text of the interview:
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Let us begin with the most important question that is currently being asked: Who is to blame for the delay in the formation of the government?
[Al-Hashimi] It is the side that is placing a wedge in the wheel, seeking to stop the natural course of life, and obstructing the interests of the homeland and the citizen. It is the side that clings to power without a legal or constitutional basis, interprets the constitution according to its whims, vacillates its political stand based on its whims and desires, refuses to recognize the results of the elections, refuses to admit defeat in a sportsman spirit, and deprives Al-Iraqiya from its right to form the government.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Which of the coalitions is closest to you in forming the government?
[Al-Hashimi] It is the coalition that demonstrates that it is committed to the constitution and to the rules of democratic conduct. It is the side that respects the results of the elections, admits that Al-Iraqiya has won, and admits its right to form the government. The closest to us is the side that recognizes our right as the winning bloc. The closest to us is the side that respects the sacrifices of the Iraqi people for democracy.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] So Al-Iraqiya is not close to any coalition.
[Al-Hashimi] This is not accurate. The Kurdistan Alliance has recognized the right of Al-Iraqiya as the winning list to form the government. Some coalitions recognize the same thing behind closed doors, but pressures that are placed on them put them in an embarrassing position and they thus decline to proclaim their stand.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What is your opinion on allocating the position of parliament speaker to the Al-Iraqiya List?
[Al-Hashimi] The Al-Iraqiya List is prepared to engage in dialogue and negotiate on all the leadership positions. By the way, there are four such positions and they become five positions if we add the chairmanship of the Judicial Council.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What about the position of president of the republic? Some are saying that it has been already decided.
[Al-Hashimi] It is premature to use such words. This position is still pending, awaiting consensus on the other leadership positions as part of one package. The negotiations will not be confined only to the positions – as happened in the past – but will also include the powers.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What will be the reaction of the Al-Iraqiya Bloc if another coalition is designated to form the government?
[Al-Hashimi] The democratic edifice enjoys traditions from which no politician should deviate or dare set a precedent that harms the march of democracy. Bypassing the Al-Iraqiya List would amount to a serious deviation in the democratic process. We will deal with it with maximum responsibility and seriousness within the framework of a package of legal and political measures that Al-Iraqiya is preparing. First of all, we would not participate in such a government because it would be illegal .
[Jasim] So you would not accept a compromise candidate?
[Al-Hashimi] There is no need for a compromise candidate. Our candidate has all the components for success; the other blocs should recognize our right to nominate our candidate.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What is your opinion on the first session of the Chamber of Deputies? Why was it left in open session?
[Al-Hashimi] The session convened following hard labor and difficult political debate. It was subjected to some legal and constitutional violations that included exempting the civil servants that won in the recent elections from taking the oath. This is an innovation that does not change the reality that the current government is a caretaker government because the parliament that gave its powers no loner exists. As for leaving it in open session, this is a measure that was not needed. The constitution stipulates that the president of the republic should be selected within 30 days of the convocation (not the end) of the first session. Therefore, we are committed to electing the position of speaker and that of president of the republic within a date that does not exceed 30 days. We also strongly endorse brother Dr Adil Abdul-Mahdi’s letter to the federal court that the government has become a caretaker government and that all the civil servants that won in the elections should take the oath and resign but remain in their posts only to manage public affairs.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] How does Tariq al-Hashimi evaluate the dialogues related to the formation of the next Iraqi government? What are your chances in forming it? Were all the moves indeed mere maneuvers or genuine negotiations that led to specific results?
[Al-Hashimi] The chances of the Al-Iraqiya List in forming the government of the future are still strong because they are based on constitutional legitimacy and the electoral requirement. The negotiations continue and we feel that we have a long way ahead of us that requires patience and perseverance in order to reach national accords on issues that are disputed, and these issues are big and sensitive. But the Al-Iraqiyah List continues to cling to its legitimate right since it is the winning list on which applies the term “the largest bloc in parliament”.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] To what degree does Iran influence the current political situation in Iraq? Are your visits to the Arab countries part of creating a regional balance in Iraq?
[Al-Hashimi] From the beginning, we have insisted that the political decision-making process in Iraq should be “local made”. We strive very hard to distance Iraq from becoming an arena for conflict among external forces and we reject any external intervention in Iraqi affairs. At the same time, however, we ask the international community in general and the neighboring countries and Arab countries in particular to help the Iraqis build their country and emerge from their ordeal. This assistance takes various forms, including offering advice and consultation, debt relief, the activation of diplomatic representation, and so on without interference in the Iraqi decision-making process either in the formation of the government or anything else.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What are your latest efforts in ending the file of the secret prisons in Baghdad and northern Iraq? Where does the file of human rights stand in your government program?
[Al-Hashimi] The issue of human rights will be at the top of the priorities of the government that the Al-Iraqiya List will form. It includes the issues of secret detainees and prisons as well as the various detention centers. It also9 includes the injustices and oppression that the Iraqi individual suffered through torture and persecution, lack of suitable humane and health conditions, the lack of investigation reports, the phenomenon of the secret informant, and so on. All this will be replaced with justice, fairness, the application of human rights standards, and the enforcement of the constitution and the laws under the government that will be formed by the Al-Iraqiya List.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] To what degree is the United States committed to the decision to withdraw? Do you think it will withdraw on time?
[Al-Hashimi] I think that the withdrawal schedule in the security agreement is binding. Thus we expect the United States to complete the withdrawal of its forces by the end of 2011.