In selecting Ibrahim al-Jaafari as its nominee for a second prime ministerial term, the dominant Shiite bloc has betrayed the hopes of all those who have wanted Iraq’s first constitutionally elected government to make a fresh start at reunifying the country, rebuilding the economy and putting an end to the torture and murder of civilians by Shiite militia members.

Jaafari has been a spectacular failure on all these fronts over the past 10 months. He is unlikely to do a better job if he gets the job a second time, particularly since he owes his selection to a political deal with the followers of Muqtada al-Sadr, a man whose own armed gang, the Mahdi Army, is very much part of the problem.

By itself, the Shiite bloc controls only 130 of Parliament’s 275 seats, while a two-thirds majority is required to approve the new prime minister and the cabinet. That gives important leverage to the Kurds, with just over 50 seats, and to various Sunni Arabs and independents. Ideally, these groups will use their leverage to ease out Jaafari. The very least they should do is to counteract Sadr’s destructive and growing influence. Sixty-four votes, half of them loyal to Sadr, won Jaafari this nomination. That is less than one-quarter of the new Parliament. Democracy does not require confirming him as prime minister.