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The Iraqi Regime is Caught between Legitimacy and Legality

The Iraqi Regime is Caught between Legitimacy and Legality

Friday, 12 August, 2022 - 08:30

Since announcing that his parliamentary bloc would resign, the leader of the Sadr Movement, Muqtada al-Sadr, has been playing tug of war with his rivals in the Coordination Framework. The latter were recently deprived of the constitutional legitimacy they had obtained in the courts, not through elections, after Sadr withdrew his deputies from parliament and then almost immediately filled it with his supporters.

Sadr re-entered parliament from the gates of the Green Zone this time, and he succeeded in pitting the popular legitimacy that he enjoys against constitutional legitimacy. This has achieved several goals so far, and it seems that he is planning to take broader steps if his rivals do not meet his demands.

The moment his supporters managed to occupy parliament and disrupt it, Sadr made disregarding and bypassing him impossible. He subsequently escalated his demands over the past few days; indeed, meeting the terms he recently laid out would mean his rivals’ capitulation. Meanwhile, his demand that the judiciary dissolve parliament and call for early elections within a particular time frame means taking the legislature out of the equation altogether, a prospect that infuriated former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

“Neither will parliament be dissolved, nor will the regime be changed, nor will early elections be held, without parliament convening, and we will act in accordance with its decisions,” he said during a speech he gave on Ashura.

While Maliki is opposed to any attempts to bypass parliament, Sadr managed to exploit the divergences between the factions of the Coordination Framework, especially after some factions engaged with his proposal and declared their willingness to negotiate. This split threatens the cohesion of the Framework going forward, especially since some factions are not ready to be part of a battle to settle the score between Maliki and Sadr. These factions tend to favor quelling the dispute, discussing Sadr’s proposal with him, and agreeing to join the dialogue proposed by Prime Minister Mustapha al-Kadhimi. Their goal is to avoid new bloody clashes in Iraq that would inevitably lead to a total collapse.

For his part, the Prime Minister reiterated his calls on the political forces to accept responsibility and break the political gridlock in the country for the sake of Iraq and its future. “I hope everyone will put all their efforts into finding a solution to the political impasse and opt for dialogue to resolve disputes; dialogue is our only option.”

The problems with the Iraqi political system have been evident since its inception, and what we are seeing today is the climax of the political forces’ failure to manage the state and run the regime. This state of affairs opens the door to a debate about the utility of holding parliamentary elections under such a regime, as they would reproduce the same crisis even if some forces end up with fewer deputies while others gain seats.

The reason for this is the untraditional Iraqi standard for determining legitimate political representation, as the scale of this representation and of the different factions’ presence in the state are not linked to the number of deputies they have in parliament. That means opening the door to other conflicts that will drain everyone involved.

The gap between the two sides is massive. The Shiites have been split in two, with their disputes going beyond differences in how they see the regime. That is what Sadr’s rivals are trying to use against him, arguing that accepting his political choices and demands would cost the Shiites their control over the executive and weaken the Shiite grip on power… This split will open the floodgates to deep divisions over the identity of the region, its future doctrine, and whether the local forces losing out and influential forces in the region would allow this shift to occur.

And so, for the majority of Iraqis, who went out in droves during the October uprising, an Iraqi national identity is taking shape. This identity is different from that of the 2003 regime, and the two can no longer coexist. The current impasse is not a consequence of the elections crisis, and holding new elections cannot resolve it.

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