Defeated parties seeking to return to power through the gate of Basra

By Mustafa Habib, translation by Dr. Pshtiwan Faraj

As the Iraqi government is engaged in workshops on economic and trade deals with the countries of the region in an attempt to meet the challenges of services and reconstruction, it appears that a political team of parties is dissatisfied with the government after it found itself outside the political scene, and seeks to return to power through the gate of Basra.

The Iraqi government- last week was busy with political movement-  continues a large economic workshop with the countries of the region was the last visit of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi to Saudi Arabia, and the convening of a political summit involving the heads of parliaments of neighboring countries, but in turn moving political blocs to form new alliances in an attempt to change the government, after finding itself outside the political game.

Six months have passed since the formation of the new Iraqi government, which is considered to be the most technocratic of the previous governments after 2003, and the results of the May election, which produced new winners in exchange for the loss of traditional political forces that have dominated the reins of power for years.

In the May elections, the three traditional political alliances were broken down by a Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish allies for the first time since 2005. This time, two rival alliances, each of which includes Shi’ite, Sunni and Kurdish forces, the “Reform” and “Construction”  has emerged. These rival alliances agreed on the choice of nominating an independent Prime Minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, to form the new Iraqi government.

However, it seems that the political forces are not satisfied with what is happening on the ground, and they want to return to power. The most prominent party “Al-Da’wa” with “Victory” coalition led by Haider Abadi, and the “Coalition of the State Law,” which is led by Nuri al-Maliki.

After a feud between Abadi and Maliki began in 2014 and this rivalry continued until the last elections, the last week witnessed a remarkable development through a meeting of both the leaders of the divided party, and the meeting was followed  by statements that indicated convergence and integration soon.

Abadi lost the post of prime minister after he was counting on  and investing in his victory over ISIS “Da’esh” eyeing for the second term of premiership. But Iran and several political forces, including his party colleague Nuri al-Maliki, stood firm against his keeping on in office. In the end, Abadi lost not only the prime minister position, but the Da’wa Party lost this position for the first time since 2005.

Al-Abadi entered into an alliance with “Saeroon” coalition, led by Muqtada al-Sadr, while al-Maliki entered into an alliance with al-Fateh led by Hadi al-Amiri, the political arch rival of Muqtada al-Sadr. However, the paradoxes of politics put Saeroon and al-Fath in one alliance. And both rival-turned coalition chose Adel Abdul Mahdi as prime minister. Now both Sadr and Amiri have the greatest influence within the government cabinet.

While the Kurdistan Democratic Party feels grateful to Abdul Mahdi after resolving outstanding issues between Baghdad and Erbil. Especially those related to the salaries of employees of the Kurdistan region, which Baghdad will pay in return for the Kurdistan region to hand over imports of oil equivalent to 250 thousand barrels per day to the federal government in Baghdad, which has not happened so far.

Mohammed al-Sudani, a member of the “State of the Law” says that “This political paradox has not only stirred the resentment of Abadi and Maliki, but also other political blocs that have felt marginalized and isolated in the administration of the government led by “Saeeron”, “Fatah” and “KDP”.

The disgruntled blocs of government performance almost lost their political influence within the government after losing a lot of their seats in the elections. Including the coalition of “Al-Watanya-Patriotic” and “Al-Mutahdoon- the united” and “Al-Hikma- Wisdom”. These blocks who are supporting the government have less parliamantary seats than the blocks who are criticizing the government.

Saeeron, al-Fateh and the Kurdistan Democratic Party have 126 seats in parliament, while the opposition forces have more than that number. This is why the opposition blocks have been contemplating an attempt to reorganize their political papers.

But the anti-government forces have found themselves in a dilemma. Their move to confront the government at the moment is inappropriate because of the government’s efforts to rebuild and rehabilitate the infrastructure through dozens of economic agreements with neighboring countries. Moreover, the current Mahdi led Iraqi government has international and Arab support. Therefore their opposition at the current moment is futile.

Therefore, these parties are waiting for the right opportunity when the summer season approaches followed by the growing popular discontent with the government as a result of the rising temperatures and the lack of electricity and basic services. It seems that some of these parties are preparing themselves to seize this opportunity, fueling public opinion through the province of Basra.

On the 12th of this April, 2019, a surprise demonstration was launched in the oil-rich city of Basra, which ignited last summer ‘s biggest protests in the country since 2003. The slogan of this demonstration, which took place through dozens of cars roaming the streets of the city to call for the formation of the regional government of Basra. A number of independent activists in Basra said they did not participate in the demonstration.

Ten days before the demonstration, the Basra provincial council voted on a decision to proceed with legal procedures to turn the city into an independent province, to show that the slogan of the province of Basra was a popular demand by the residents of the city for years. But this time this call for Regional government of Basra came with the will of parties that had already rejected this proposal years ago when it was in power.

The political scene in Iraq will open over the next two months on difficult prospects. The government is racing to provide services, especially electricity, before the summer approaches. But the  disgruntling parties are waiting for the government to fail and present themselves as an alternative.

But the dangerous thing that both the current government and the parties that support it, as well as the parties that resent it, are aware of is that this time the popular protests may be out of control. If the demonstrations in Basra and the cities of the south continues, then the provinces of the west and the north of Iraq such as Mosul and Anbar will also join them. All this is because of the absence of reconstruction, and lack of caring for the suffering of the people, and the chronic displacement of thousands of Internally displaced people in camps.

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