Consideration to geostrategic pulse 266 - Iraq after the parliamentarian elections and beyond

Iraq after the parliamentarian elections and beyond
Corneliu PIVARIU

The latest parliamentarian elections in Iraq, held on May 12th, 2018, designated the 329 members of the Council of Representatives – the unicameral parliament which, in its turn, would, according to the constitution, elect the prime minister and the country’s president.

Initially they were to be held in September 2017 and were postponed due to the fights against Daesh. In the mean time, a referendum for independence was organized whereby 93% voted for independence from the central government in Baghdad. The government led by prime minister Haidar al-Abadi responded by closing Erbil International airport, by taking over the control  of the borders between Kurdistan and the neighbouring countries, by taking over the control of all disputed territories, including the town of Kirkuk (using the militias al-Hashd al-Shaabi – Popular Mobilisation) and, afterwards, through negotiations, the results of the referendum were formally cancelled.

Reflecting the internal restlessness and the lack of political maturity, more than 200 parties were registered for the elections and at the end of the registrations on the electoral lists,  27 coalitions were to be found grouping 143 parties while the other parties participated independently. The participation to vote was the lowest since Saddam Hussein’s regime was overthrown in 2003, namely 44.5%. That proved the population’s lack of confidence in the current Iraqi political class and, in a way, the sense of resignation to the difficult situation the country is going through.

Following certain suspicions of fraud, the parliament ordered on June 6th a manual recount of the votes but on June 10th a warehouse where about half of the ballots were kept burned down.

No party or electoral alliance acquired the majority that enables the appointment of the prime minister and afterwards forming the government and that is why during the first meeting of the newly elected parliament, at the beginning of September, not even the chairman of the parliament could have been elected. The Alliance for Reform (in short in the Arabic language Saairun – Forward) acquired unexpectedly good results and its main component, the Islamic Party of Integrity, (known also as Sadr Movement) led by Muqtada al-Sadr, a Shiite cleric  known for his nationalistic attitude and an opponent of both Iran and the USA and who proved, over time, he was not consistent in his attitude, something he did recently when refused to back Haidar al-Abadi for a new mandate after he initially agreed to. An important role will play the Kurdish representatives who gained 47 seats and may determine which governing coalition will be. Nevertheless, their condition of lifting all restrictions imposed and Kirkuk’s returning to Kurdistan administration remains in place.

The  next meeting of the newly elected parliament is to be held on September 15th, yet in all likelihood it will not succeed in unblocking the situation having in mind the latest domestic developments especially in the oil rich Basra region, south of the country, where violent demonstrations and confrontations resulted in 14 dead. Prime minister Abadi visited the area and decided the creation of 10,000 new jobs and underlined the dysfunctionalities of an artificially  bloated government apparatus.  Nevertheless, the population have much bigger discontents  related to the public services (mainly water supply), economic inequities and unemployment. 60% of Iraq’s population is under 25 of whom 20% are unemployed. The subsidized economy characterizing the current situation in Iraq led to the redistribution of oil revenues to different parties which, in their turn, appointed in public positions loyal followers and not efficient specialists. Besides, Iraq is seen domestically as a failed state whereby the central government is concerned with how to steal the country’s resources and not how to rule through a real sharing of power to the benefit of the common citizen.

The confrontation between the USA and Iran for influencing the process of forming the government, the Iranian general Kasem Suleimani, the head of Pasdaran actions  and those of the American Envoy for the Global Coalition against Daesh, Brett McGurk are obvious signs of this dispute which should be added to this difficult domestic situation which will last for many years. Under such circumstances, Iraq’s future doesn’t look too well.

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