“How is Iraq?” we asked a friend just back from Baghdad the other day.
“Bad, very bad, my friend,” was the reply. “Even my cook has an opinion about how to form the new government.”
The Iraqi friend is a prominent banker who spent his youth in exile in the West and returned home only after the fall of Saddam Hussein. However, he seems to have retained the traditional mindset of many of us Middle Easterners, who see ourselves as victims of despotism and yet fear any system in which even the cook has an opinion.
To be fair to our friend, the current political scene in Baghdad isn’t exactly reassuring. The general election failed to produce an outright majority and the formation of a new government could take weeks if not months.
We are used to seeing governments formed and reshuffled in hours, if not minutes, with narrow elite of “usual suspects” playing musical chairs in and out of ministerial posts. In that system, any hitch in forming a government could be dealt with by having some ministers shot, as did Saddam Hussein in his heyday, or exiled into ambassadorial posts with a golden handshake.