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Kadhimi, Chaos and the Bonapartists

Kadhimi, Chaos and the Bonapartists

Friday, 30 April, 2021 - 11:15

In an announcement attributed to a source close to Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi denying that the latter intends to run for the next elections, the source explains: “The current government is the result of a social crisis and is not an electoral competitor. Its prime minister will always be true to the Iraqi people’s demands for free, transparent and fair elections that will put things back in order.”

This rhetoric needs precise deconstruction, as the informed source says that the government is the product of a social crisis, and in all likelihood, this crisis has not been resolved or on track to being resolved. On the contrary, Kadhimi’s decision to not participate personally or endorse a political or youth group will take the crisis back square one, as the non-participation of the organized groups that rose to prominence as political entities after the uprising and their exclusion from political life will complicate the situation further and will not help to put things on track, as the source said.

Away from the regional and global explanations of Kadhimi’s electoral abstention, as well as some interpretations that he had been pressured by political forces and that factions demanded that he commit to the promise he had made the day of the appointment - and whether he is distancing himself or being distanced - the abstention will increase the anxiety about political, security and social stability in the few coming months.

This apprehension does not stem from a conviction that Kadhimi’s participation would ensure diverse representation but that the struggle for influence between political forces, especially those that are armed, will be blown wide open during elections if they are held on schedule, or after the results are announced. It would also reproduce the 2018 political settlements and the attempt to topple the October revolution, which would inevitably lead to a showdown between the armed groups and the protesters’ second wave, which will be more fierce and violent than the first.

Iraqi election experts always allocate between 20 and 25 percent of parliamentary seats to the prime ministers overseeing the elections, a number that rises depending on electoral alliances, their achievements being translated electorally and their ability to benefit from their executive position. With Kahdimi stepping aside, the political forces are competing over what we could call the prime minister’s share, and the likelihood of clashes breaking out amid this competition is increasing. The armed factions, which were contained and cohesive are now suffering from the lack of cohesion of those who had been containing them. This will pose a threat to the electoral process and may force the elections’ postponement, which is a possibility that poses grave risks. Most dangerously, their stances on the elections results could lead to a showdown and wreak havoc.

It is not far-fetched for influential regional players to pile pressure in order to avert chaos and contain the ramifications of the competition among armed groups. A regional and international agreement could allow the political clique to turn back the clock to before October 1, 2019 and rule out both the re-appointment of Kadhimi as comprise candidate and the designation of a new figure who continues what had begun the moment it was decided that Khadimi would be appointed. However, what might be unaccounted for is public opinion, and the streets could resort to confrontation to foil their plans.

Based on the above, if the government does not manage to hold clean and free elections, the political and popular response will take form in the streets. The first possibility is a confrontation between supporters of the October revolution and the authorities. As for the second, it is an internal struggle among the armed factions to settle scores, which would lead to a slide toward civil unrest or a civil war that would be the end of the 2003 regime. However, the scale of the violence would create a state of total chaos similar to that seen at the start of the French Revolution. The latter paved the road to the arrival of an obscure officer from Corsica to protect the state and the government in Paris. An Iraqi Bonaparte could, in a moment of violence and chaos, garner popular support for mobilization to end the deadly chaos.

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