The country launched a new government this month after 2019 protests sparked last year’s general election, but far from changing it, it remains corrupt.
Iraqi leader Muqtada al-Sadr’s party came out stronger than the 2018 election and won the October 2021 general election. But it took a year for the country to form a government. And despite the victory, the Sadrists played no role in the election of Iraq’s new president and prime minister last week.
The disappointing resignation of the winning party signifies the new government’s lack of legitimacy, which bodes well for the future security of Iraq, which has been unstable in the two decades since the 2003 invasion.
Last year’s election was held in October 2019, calling for a protest against government corruption and deep-rooted ethno-sectarian patronage. The new government is a continuation and triumph of an ethnic sect elite that must mitigate interrelated economic, environmental and international crises.
The Tishrin movement, launched in October 2019, denounced corruption, unemployment and unreliable services such as water and electricity to the country’s elite. The protests led to the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi in December 2019 and the establishment of a caretaker government until 3,200 candidates ran for 329 parliamentary seats until elections in October. The low turnout of 41% reflected public indifference.
The Sadrist Bloc won 73 out of 54 three years ago. They won because of effective mobilization and organization, including mobile apps that provide voters with information about the names of candidates sitting in their constituencies, the nearest polling place and the documents needed to vote.
In the Arab Sunnis, Mohammed al-Halbush, who leads the Progressive Alliance, came second with 38 seats. Meanwhile, in the area around Erbil, the Kurdish Democratic Party, led by Masoud Barzani, secured 32 seats and allied with the Sadrists to help them play a key role in forming a new government.
Among the losers was Hadi al-Amiri’s “conquest” coalition, which narrowed the list of candidates for the Iran-backed Iraqi army to 14 seats, less than a third of what it won in 2018. Rule of Law Coalition of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki came third overall with 37 seats, but failed to form a coalition with the THAAD list due to historical hostility. The Sadrists, Progress and Kurdish Democrats have a total of 143 seats, but still fall short of a majority.
In the past, Shiite factions held ministerial positions based on election results. With Sadr’s allies failing to win a majority, he was expected to hand over a cabinet post to counter the Shiite faction, but forced the government to oust Maliki and the Iran-linked faction and form the opposition.
Joining forces with several other groups in a new faction known as the Coordination Circle, Amiri and Maliki blocked Sadrist attempts to form a government. This summer, Sadr ordered his candidates to resign from parliament, tipping the balance in favor of his rivals.
These issues mainly led to the October 2019 protests that triggered early elections in October 2021. The past three years, October 3, have completely changed the face of Iraqi politics.