Iraqis see the post-Saddam Hussein system of government as failure - Expert -

6 December, Monday

Iraqis see the post-Saddam Hussein system of government as failure - Expert

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Shi'ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's party was the biggest winner in an Iraqi election on Monday, increasing the number of seats he holds in parliament, according to initial results, officials and a spokesperson for the Sadrist Movement.

Former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki looked set to have the next largest win among Shi'ite parties, initial results showed.

Iraq's Shi'ite groups have dominated governments and government formation since the U.S.-led invasion of 2003 that toppled Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein and catapulted the Shi'ite majority and the Kurds to power.

Sunday's election was held several months early, in response to mass protests in 2019 that toppled a government and showed widespread anger against political leaders whom many Iraqis say have enriched themselves at the expense of the country.

Eurasia Diary conducted an interview from Mehmood Ul Hasan Khan, professional Pakistani researcher on the Middle East, Afghanistan and East Asia regarding the impacts of the last elections on Iraq's domestic and foriegn policy. 

Müvəqqəti sülh, yoxsa barışığa doğru ilk addım? - Ekspertlər  İsrail-Fələstin razılaşmasını şərh edirlər

- According to Iraqi news, the turnout in the last parliament elections in Iraq was 41%. It was lower than the 2018 elections. What is the main reason for low turnout in Iraqi elections? 

Deadly masses of people's protests forced the Iraqi government to hold an early parliamentary election in the country. Results were shocking to the ruling government and elites too.

According to latest results of Iraqi Election Commission, the turnout in the parliament elections in Iraq was 41 percent which vividly reflected disassociation of the different segments of the society from the realms of the government.

On the contrary, the total turnout was 44.5 percent in the last election in 2018. It was the fifth parliamentary election since 2003 which showed the level of vulnerability in the political system of Iraq. The electoral commission said the lowest turnout was in Baghdad, with between 31 percent and 34 percent.

Interestingly, the initial results also showed that pro-reform candidates who emerged from the 2019 protests had gained several seats in the 329-member parliament.

Moreover, Iran backed religious-political parties with links to militia groups accused of killing some of the nearly 600 people who died in the protests took a blow, winning fewer seats than in the last election in 2018 which showed people's anger and disbelief on the Iran sponsored candidates and political parties alike.

In this connection it showed that now people were least interested in the political gaming and zero-sum cosmetic narratives of different political parties. There was a clear-cut trust deficit between the political parties and voters.

Moreover, deteriorating law and order was also one of the main reasons for its low turn-out. Surprisingly the low turn-out in the major cities favored the Al-Sadr party who had already claimed victory in the most recently held parliament elections in Iraq.

According to the election commission at least 167 parties and more than 3,200 candidates are competing for parliament's 329 seats.

To conclude many Iraqis see the post-Saddam Hussein system of government based on sectarian power-sharing as a failure. And entrenched corruption and the growing power of unchecked militias deepened disillusionment.

- What is the main reason behind the victory of Al-Sadr party in the last elections?

It’s the time for the Sadrist Movement. The people are with them.

Shi'ite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr claimed victory in Iraqi elections, while the former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was close behind.

Iraq's Shi'ite groups have dominated governments and government formation since the US-led invasion of 2003 that toppled Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein and catapulted the Shi'ite majority and the Kurds to power.

Sadr has increased his power over the Iraqi state since coming first in the 2018 election where his coalition won 54 seats.

Political reality is that the unpredictable populist cleric has been a dominant figure and often kingmaker in Iraqi politics since the US invasion.

He opposes all foreign interference in Iraq, whether by the United States, against which he fought an insurgency after 2003, or by neighbouring Iran, which he has criticized for its close involvement in Iraqi politics.

It was one of the main reasons for his victory in the recently held elections. Moreover, he selected younger educated people who can support his reformist agenda. His mass movement against foreign influence had great appeal among the voters who voted for them to liberate their country from all regional power brokers and global movers & shakers.

Seemingly, the USA, GCC Countries and Israel were on one side and Iran on the other competing to influence Iraq, which provides Tehran with a gateway to back armed allies in Syria and Lebanon.

However, such an unexpected electoral result would not dramatically alter the balance of power in Iraq or the wider Middle East but for Iraqis it could mean that a former insurgency leader and conservative Islamist could increase his sway over the government.

- Iraqi analyst Ali Anbori said that Muqtada Al-Sadr is not far away from Iran himself. Eventually, Al-Sadr party and all Shiiti groups will sit together and form the government under the umbrella of Iranian regime?

Muqtada Al-Sadr has been visiting Iran so many times to form a larger strategic balancing act in the region against the imperialists forces.  After the fall of Saddam Hussain it has been all domination of Shiiti political parties and militia groups in Iraq.

Although he achieved significant increase in his earlier seats i.e. 54 in the last parliament election 2018 to more than 75 in 2021 but still future political jockeying would not be so easy to form a stable and sustainable government in the days to come.

He will have to negotiate with the other divergent Shiiti political parties which would not be a smooth sailing in the days to come. Thus political compromises and concessions would be the result.  

- What do you think about the prospects for Iran-Iraq relations?

It is still a far cry. But it hopes that after Al-Sadr party victor things would change and move towards rapprochement with Iran being an ally and supporter of  Shiiti groups and political parties in Iraq. 

by Yunis Abdullayev

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