Kathleen Ridolfo told an RFE/RL briefing that many politicians -- including those within the government -- were disillusioned with the prime minister's performance and that several outside the administration were "banking on the idea that al-Maliki will not survive the next year."
Already, al-Maliki's United Iraqi Alliance has been fraying. In March, the Al-Fadilah Party withdrew because of powersharing disputes. The following month, six ministers from Muqtada al-Sadr's bloc also withdrew, and Ridolfo said it looked likely the Shi'ite cleric could completely pull out of the UIA in the coming months.Ridolfo said a break-up of al-Maliki's UIA, coupled with an expected wider reorganization of political alliances, would mean "al-Maliki's administration will have a hard time maintaining power," Ridolfo said.
"The United Iraqi Alliance [would] have 83 seats left. If they are still aligned with the Kurds, that would leave the two groups with 138 seats in parliament. That's exactly enough to overcome a no-confidence vote, but it's obviously a very precarious situation at that point because any politicians that are swayed against the administration would in essence bring down the government."
Another worry for al-Maliki is the threat earlier this month by the Sunni-led Iraqi Accordance Front (Al-Tawafuq) to leave the government. Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, one of the front's key members, complained that al-Maliki's administration was not meeting its commitments to give Sunnis more power within the government.
Ridolfo said al-Hashimi's threat "grabbed al-Maliki's attention." The prime minister has since sought to mollify the Sunni leader and seems to have staved off a departure, at least for now, she said.
Ridolfo said the Sunnis would likely determine the shape of the Iraqi political landscape in the months to come, as they decided which parties to align with.
She said two main coalitions may emerge, one led by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, the other by al-Sadr.
Allawi has come up with what he has called a "national salvation plan" to end sectarian violence, and he has been courting various political blocs in a bid to persuade them to join him in forming a non-sectarian government.
But Ridolfo was skeptical when asked about the likely repercussions in the event al-Maliki's government fell and Allawi took office again.
"There's a general idea that [Allawi's plan is] formulated along the basis of a nonsectarian approach. but Allawi's own administration was a sectarian-based government," Ridolfo said. "I don't know if there's anything he can offer that would really be any different from this current government."