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Iraq: Renewed Calls for Government Resignation

Iraq: Renewed Calls for Government Resignation

Sunday, 13 October, 2019 - 09:45
Protesters carrying Iraqi flag (AFP)

This year’s Arbaeen occasion in Karbala city coincided with the height of the crisis of public anger among Shiite circles, prompting the protesters to temporarily cease the demonstrations until the rituals are completed which will also give the government the last chance to reschedule its options.

However, Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi and the government faced two setbacks: first being the political blocs immediately resorting to quota base after the demonstrations, as the PM had a limited cabinet reshuffle.

Abdul Mahdi was confident the parliament will immediately ratify the government change fearing the public's anger and not necessarily because it was convinced by the amendment.

The reshuffle only passed two ministers: the health minister who is a substitute to the previous minister who was forced to resign, and the education minister whose assignment had been delayed for a year.

The blocs refused to give three other ministers their confidence because they are not from their blocs or parties. This move angered the public who accused political parties of corruption calling again for the government’s resignation and early elections.

The second setback for Abdul Mahdi's limited options is the stance of Shiite Supreme Leader Ali al-Sistani. Not only that, but Sistani also blamed the government for cracking down on protesters, demanding that it discloses the name of those involved in violent acts.

It is worth mentioning that since 2003, the Supreme Leader had been supportive of all previous governments.

Meanwhile, several parties are once again calling for the dismissal of Abdul-Mahdi's government and early elections, which was called for earlier by the leader of the Sadrist movement Muqtada al-Sadr.

Sadr suspended Saeroon parliamentary bloc consisting of 54 deputies in protest of the government's repression of the demonstrators.

The move resonated with other parliamentary blocs that chose to join the opposition such as National Wisdom Movement, led by Ammar al-Hakim, and Nasr bloc led by former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

Despite not protesting like Shiite governorates, Kurdish and Sunni areas are in no better situation, but the difference lies in the nature of their region's governance.

Kurds enjoy the autonomy that brings them to near-independence, and are therefore supportive of Abdul-Mahdi, who they see as their friend and ally and thus cannot be abandoned in times of hardship.

Minister of Housing and Reconstruction Bangin Rekani of the “Kurdistan Democratic Party” in the federal government, described the situation, by saying the political blocs handed the government a malfunctioning bulldozer and are demanding it to reconstruct the country, with the condition that it doesn’t reform it.

Rekani noted that when people complain about poor performance, the blocs tell you that as a solution to the crisis, the minister proposes either fixing the bulldozer or allowing the government to repair it.

Meanwhile, MP of Wisdom Bloc Furat al-Tamimi told Asharq Al-Awsat that if the government remains within the framework of these measures, it will not be able to contain the protests.

He warned that reforms put forward are temporary solutions and do not address the origin of the problem, namely lack of job opportunities and corruption.

Asked about early elections, Tamimi says that this could be a solution to the current crisis, because the present composition of the government, formed by the two main blocs, Fatah and Saeroon, is unable to meet the requirements of the stage.

For his part, CEO of AKKAD Center for Strategic Affairs and Future Studies, Hussein Allawi, asserted that the government has a very difficult road ahead as it faces the demands of the young Iraqi community, which is a big challenge now in the implementation of reform packages.

He explained that Abdul Mahdi must change the government, which he inherited from a political system suffering from the problem of trust between the citizen and the authorities.

On the call for early elections, Allawi stressed that this will become clear only after 15 days, which is the deadline set by the Religious Authority in Najaf for the Iraqi government to investigate the demonstrations and what happened during them.

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