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The political class in Iraq… the last chance to save the “quota system”


Amid obsessions, maneuvers and profit and loss accounts

On October 10, Iraq will have completed a year since early elections, without its political class being able to form a new government.

While the aim of holding those elections was to implement one of the most important conditions of the popular “October Uprising” that entered the Iraqi political discourse with this name since 2019, when it erupted on the first of October of that year, the outcomes of those elections, which came through a law New, it has not met the desire of the political class that has adopted the partisan, ethnic and sectarian “quotas” system since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime at the hands of the US invasion forces on April 9, 2003.

The results whose integrity was questioned by the losing powers resulted in the emergence of new forces, represented by the victory of a large number of independent representatives. It should be noted that the new law, which was enacted in the wake of that “uprising” that was brutally suppressed, provided more than one party, including what the Iraqi political class used to call the “third party”, the opportunity to win the individual vote and the base of the highest votes.

According to the new Iraqi election law, and according to its provisions, more than 40 deputies won between an independent and a candidate, who belong to the atmosphere of the “Intifada 2019” demonstrations, which in fact came out with one slogan: “We want a homeland.” It is known that the masses of these demonstrations paid a great price for this slogan, which has not yet been achieved, with more than 600 dead and more than 24 thousand wounded. At the same time, the “Sadr bloc” led by Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr won the largest number of seats, as it won 73 seats out of the 329 that make up the Iraqi parliament. In contrast, all the other Shiite forces, which later organized under the so-called Shiite “coordinating framework”, and are politically close to Tehran, were unable to obtain the number of seats that Al-Sadr obtained. On the other hand, although the quotas of Kurds and Sunnis remained largely unchanged, due to the regionalism and partisanship that control the movement of the masses there, the change in the Shiite scene was likely from the beginning to leave its effects on the rest of the Iraqi scene in terms of how to form the next government.

By calculating the numbers, the number of Shiite representatives, with their various parties and blocs, including the new independent representatives, all of whom are Shiites, exceeds 180. This is a number that qualifies them fully when voting to form a government and choosing what they want alone, because the majority needed to form governments, according to the constitution, does not exceed half plus one, which means 165 deputies out of the total number of Iraqi parliament deputies.

However, the problem that everyone faced began in the process of electing the President of the Republic. This is because the position of the President of the Republic in Iraq, despite being a semi-symbolic position, needs two-thirds of the parliament’s members to vote on it. Here, constitutional experts believe that the goal behind the constitutional text, which is governed by Article 70 of the Iraqi constitution, is to guarantee the rights of other components, such as the Sunni Arabs and the Kurds, so that the Shiites do not have absolute political hegemony over power and authority in the country because of their sectarian majority population.

Unresolved obstacle

The first attempt to bypass the “quotas” and build longitudinal alliances comprising mixed factional blocs and parties from the three main components (Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish) appeared in the 2018 elections. During those elections, two mixed alliances were formed that transcended the divisions, namely the “Al-Binaa” coalition, which included Shiite and Kurdish parties. And Sunni Arab, and in the face of it, the “Reform” coalition, which included Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni Arab parties, like it. According to this new division, observers can talk about the first beginnings of the dismantling of the factional “houses”.

However, things did not go smoothly after that. At the stage of forming the government, the inability or unwillingness of either of the two coalitions (“construction” or “reform”), and for ethno-sectarian rather than political reasons, to determine which of the two coalitions would constitute the largest or most representative bloc was evident. Initially, the “Al-Bina” coalition led by Hadi al-Amiri and “Sairoon” led by Muqtada al-Sadr agreed to form the government, at the time, under the leadership of Adel Abdul-Mahdi. He considered this development as “an abortion from within the quota system to abolish the quota system.” However, the Iraqi masses, who mainly reject the “quotas” system, came out on October 1, 2019, about a year after the formation of Adel Abdul-Mahdi’s government, to demonstrate and sit-in, which lasted for months, and ended by forcing Abdul-Mahdi to submit his resignation, but after the people paid hundreds of victims And tens of thousands of wounded.

Subsequently, as is known, the current Prime Minister, Mustafa Al-Kazemi, was brought in to lead the “transitional period”, including holding early elections. And that’s what actually happened. However, the same political class again circumvented the election results, using various tricks in the name of the constitution to disrupt the project of the Sadrist movement’s leader Muqtada al-Sadr to form a national majority government, that is, above considerations and quotas.

For all Iraqi societal forces, it would not have been possible to get out of the “quota system” bottleneck without ending the system that protects, preserves and relies on it, and then move to forming a majority government in exchange for a national parliamentary opposition. Hence the “shock of the constitution” began, which, insofar as it was a guarantee that the Shiites would not rule alone and that the fears and concerns of the Kurds and Sunnis would not exacerbate, the “two-thirds condition” led to the inability of any political party to form a government of a political majority, as long as one or more parties do not support that. .

– “The Disabled Third”

Later, in an effort by the “coordinating framework” to prevent al-Sadr from forming a government with his two allies, the Sunni (the “Sovereignty” alliance led by Parliament Speaker Muhammad al-Halbousi) and the Kurdish (the Kurdistan Democratic Party led by Massoud Barzani), he formed the “framework” with the National Union Party. The Kurdistan Region” headed by Bafel Talabani, and the Sunni “Azm” bloc led by Muthanna al-Samarrai, the so-called “blocking third”, which was imported based on the experience of Lebanon.

In fact, this “blocking third” prevented Muqtada al-Sadr’s coalition (called “Save the Homeland”) from forming a majority government, because the matter requires…

– Or not; Electing a President of the Republic, and this step, as previously mentioned, requires obtaining a two-thirds majority (220 deputies) from the parliament, unlike the formation of the government, which requires only a simple majority, that is, half plus one. – secondly; Because over the course of 3 months, attempts by Muqtada al-Sadr and his associates to secure the two-thirds vote were unsuccessful, as the most they were able to gather was the votes of 200 deputies. Consequently, al-Sadr eventually found himself forced to withdraw his bloc’s deputies (first in terms of the number of seats) from parliament. Thus, the political scene became more complex, in an unprecedented way. This complex scene is no longer amenable to “prosthetic” solutions, as the political forces have been doing since the first parliamentary elections in 2005. These are the elections that established the current “quotas” system. Rather, it needs radical solutions that the current political class does not have the keys to. As a result, they are thinking only of breaking wills among themselves, trying to achieve false victories. The “blocking third” that prevented al-Sadr from bypassing the “quota system” is now looming in the face of those who used it, i.e. the “coordinating framework”, which is now facing two dilemmas in terms of forming the next government. The first is its ongoing problem with the Sadrist movement, and the second is how to convince the Kurdish and Sunni blocs close to it to be satisfied with positions and positions, and to go beyond thinking about actual “partnership” in political decision-making.

Al-Kazemi and the language of dialogue

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kazemi, who no longer has many powers because his government is a caretaker, is trying to rectify the country’s affairs by constantly seeking to bring the disagreements together at the “national dialogue” table. During the past two months, Al-Kazemi sponsored two rounds of the “National Dialogue” with the participation of all political forces, with the exception of the Sadrist movement, whose leader Muqtada al-Sadr still sees it as the most suitable for managing the transitional phase that oversees the upcoming early elections.

In the context of Al-Kazemi’s permanent calls for dialogue, he reiterated, on the eve of his departure to New York to participate in the work of the United Nations General Assembly, the call for what he described as a “quiet dialogue.” While the Iraqi political forces differ on Al-Kazemi’s internal legacy because of their political differences that are trying to hold the prime minister part of their responsibility, they hardly differ on his successful legacy in foreign policy. On the presidential plane that took him to New York, Al-Kazemi said in a statement: “We have worked over the past two years to establish the best relations with our neighbors and with the international community, and we have raised the level of Iraq’s presence in international forums, and we have strengthened cooperation and partnership with everyone, which will reflect positively on the interests of Our people at all levels. The caretaker prime minister added that «the government’s experience confirmed the ability of Iraq to play an important role in stabilizing the region, and to be an arena for convergence of views between everyone. This is an approach that should take its course on all levels.”

Al-Kazemi also indicated that “the current political crisis is difficult, but the doors to the solution are still open, and this requires a calm and frank dialogue that puts the interest of Iraq and its people above all,” calling on the political forces to “be calm and patient, and rely on the language of dialogue and reason, and arm ourselves with a solid will.” And a high patriotic spirit.” He added, “Let us cross our country from this stage to safety at this historical moment, through a national dialogue capable of producing solutions that end the current crisis.” For his part, Dr. Hussein Allawi, Al-Kazemi’s advisor, said in an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat that “Al-Kazemi succeeded in terms of foreign files in light of a changing world, by following the approach of balance and solving problems through peaceful endeavors, in addition to the Iraqi government’s perspective in making policy paths.” international cooperation in the field of international cooperation, climate, development, international and regional security and global energy security.

And he added, “Iraq is counting on the conclusion of understandings and economic partnerships, whose main objective is to move the economy sector in order to provide job opportunities for Iraqi youth in all governorates… This is what calls the Iraqi government to work to attract international capital, technology and international expertise, through the meetings that will be conducted by the President Ministers with kings, leaders, prime ministers and heads of international and regional organizations. As for Dr. Ghaleb Al-Daami, professor of media at Ahl al-Bayt University, he told Asharq Al-Awsat that “Al-Kazemi assumed his responsibility as prime minister at a very critical time, and worked to communicate with political forces and parties, and gave them freedom of action. But it, especially some of the framework forces (the coordination framework) worked to combat it, while they were the ones who agreed to it under those critical circumstances. Thus, his calls for dialogue come from the premise of searching for a solution, while the rejectionist political forces will not respond unless they feel that his presence is in their favour, and in the end they can respond after the crystallization of a clear international position that puts the coordination framework on the line, so that it is not allowed to form a government that represents one party. out of balance.”

Al-Daami revealed that “the international coalition supports the Sadrists, not because it agrees with them in the direction, but because it feels that the Sadrists are achieving a balance between the framework and the current.”

– What next?…a question that concerns both Iraqis and international powers

> While the leader of the Sadrist movement, Muqtada al-Sadr, continues to remain silent, the “coordinating framework” forces close to Tehran are working to benefit from Sunni-Kurdish assurances that the Sunni and Kurdish Arab components will form a government with full powers.

On the other hand, although the Sunni and Kurdish forces support the acceleration of the “coordinating framework” forces in the process of forming the government during the coming period, at the same time they are still “courting” al-Sadr to move forward with his project calling for early elections.

This problem, between the formation of a “framework” government that al-Sadr rejects, and early elections that do not satisfy the forces of the “framework,” based on al-Sadr’s insistence that the President of the Republic, Barham Salih and Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kazemi remain to supervise the elections, increases the confusion and complexity of the situation. And things may get worse in light of the possibility of surprises after next month, especially if mass demonstrations erupt mimicking the “October Uprising” in 2019, which the “Tishreenists” want to revive. Hence, in line with that, the worrying question now being asked in the Iraqi street is; What’s Next?

No one can answer this question as long as everyone has exhausted their solutions to the crisis, even with the entry of international parties such as the United States of America, which for days sent US Assistant Secretary of State Barbara Leaf, and France through the movements of the French ambassador among the Iraqi political forces. As for Iran, while a number of its senior leaders attended the fortieth visit to the city of Karbala, the official in charge of the Iraqi file in the Iranian leadership, General Ismail Qaani, commander of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, appeared while reading the Qur’an in the city of Samarra (120 kilometers northwest of Baghdad) instead of the Iraqi capital. This behavior gave an indication that Tehran is not in the process of entering directly into the Iraqi file, while it is trying to resolve its discussions on the nuclear file in a better way.

Between the bloody confrontations that took place earlier in the “Green Zone” in Baghdad between the “Sadr movement” and the “coordinating framework”, and what looms in the future, waiting remains the master of the situation.

The Iraqi parliament, which collected a large number of its deputies signatures in order to compel its speaker, Muhammad al-Halbousi, to set a session to resume its work, is still suspended, except for an informal meeting that brought together the candidate for prime minister, Muhammad Shi`a al-Sudani, with about 60 deputies from different blocs, in which he explained to them his upcoming government program. And his vision of how to find solutions to pressing issues.

This meeting, which was held in the parliament cafeteria, is not considered by observers as an indication of the possibility of resolving the crisis as it could be a new, unexpected escalation, especially after statements by one of Muqtada al-Sadr’s “Peace Brigades” leaders that they are ready and ready to face any emergency.

In the same context, the files that Al-Kazemi carried with him to New York could be another indication of the nature of what could happen there and be reflected on the political atmosphere in Baghdad, especially since Al-Kazemi hastened to meet with Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi in New York, and the joint statement reflected “the atmosphere Relief,” with the Iranian reiteration of the importance of forming a “stable and strong Iraqi government.”