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Democratic Forces of Change: An alternative Iraqi politics?

Democratic Forces of Change: A new vision for Iraqi politics?
7 min read
06 February, 2023
In-depth: In October 2022, the Democratic Forces of Change alliance was born. The broad, civil-political alliance aims to create a programme encompassing the demands of Iraq's 2019 October Revolution.

The 2019 October Revolution saw mass protests from October 2019 until early 2020, in which Iraqi demonstrators all over the country united to condemn Iraq's endemic corruption, poor services, and unemployment.

Over 800 protestors were killed by Iraq's security forces and militias, with thousands more injured. To date, no one has been held accountable, with Iraq's political status quo remaining intact for the time being.

However, the protests did rock the ruling elites, led to the resignation of Adil Abdul-Mahdi, and reset the political debate in Iraq - as new political and civil forces emerged out of the 2019 protests.

The 'Democratic Forces of Change'

The Iraqi Communist Party (ICP) - the oldest political party in Iraq (1934) - has joined forces with several newly-established political and civic forces within a new alliance, called the Democratic Forces of Change (DFC). Together, the DFC is taking steps to consolidate a political programme and vision it says seeks to forge an alternative political path - and a way to implement the demands of the 2019 protests.

The DFC was formally established in October 2022 to confront the Muhasasa system and corruption. It has made clear it aims to conduct its political activity within the prism of the civil movement in Iraq and keep a distance from the religious and traditional parties which have had a tight grip on government since the 2003 US-UK invasion.

Credible alternative

Raid Fahmi is the secretary of the ICP's Central Committee. In an interview with Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, The New Arab's Arabic-language sister edition, he spoke about the political situation in Iraq and his hopes for the emergent DFC.

"The parties that stick to the partisan, sectarian quota system – despite the powers they have, and their control of parliament and the ministries – are not popular with the Iraqi public, and they know it," he explained. "Therefore," he says, "they are worried about the DFC – and the level of credibility that Iraq's civil movement has with ordinary Iraqis."

Protesters take part in a candlelight vigil to remember those killed on the third anniversary of the 2019 October protests [Murtadha Al-Sudani/Anadolu Agency via Getty]

Following the protests, a group of political and civil society groups began to crystalise around efforts to push forward with an agenda for the changes which were called for in the 2019 Revolution.

"These forces realised there was a need for united activity in order to overcome the doubts demonstrators had about political party organisation in general," explains Fahmi. "We had the idea to form a 'consultative council', bringing together a number of parties, trade unions, organisations and activists. After a series of meetings, the idea arose to form a purely political umbrella organisation."

The DFC currently includes eight political parties: the ICP, Beit al-Iraqi, Wa'ad al-Iraqi, Nazl Akuth Haqi, the Tishreen Democratic Movement, the Democratic Social Trend, and Beit al-Watani.

"There are others too, like Hizb al-Wathiqoun, who have expressed interest in meeting with us. In spite of this, we haven't yet reached the stage of announcing an electoral alliance and registering it, though everyone wants to do this," says Fahmi.  

Working towards a different politics

Right now, the DFC is focusing on its own internal relations, coordination, and the consolidation of a unified vision and set of goals. "There is a shared desire," says Fahmi, "that the alliance shouldn't just focus on elections; but should aim to offer an alternative political project to the public."

He adds that while the DFC is open to other political groups, they have to research the backgrounds of all those expressing interest in joining them, and ensure that all those who wish to be part of the alliance are serious, and not serving hidden agendas. 

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Regarding the next elections, and whether the ICP and the DFC will stand, "right now the goal is for the DFC to transform into a political and electoral alliance […] but this idea needs to be built on in the coming period," Fahmi explains.

"We are trying to ensure our next steps are carefully planned and once taken won't be easy to undo. Certain parties on the fringes of the civil movement are now contacting us, some of whom have good relations with influential powers but who are seeking independence from them and say they want to join us; this needs careful consideration on our part."

Fahmi believes that the Iraqi civilian movement can no longer be overlooked – not just because of its "weight in numbers", but due to the starkly different programme it is putting on the table. He believes the combination of political and civil forces within the DFC is what gives it the potential to grow and develop, as well as to open up to certain independent MPs, and its links to civil society organisations.

Some of the political powers-that-be are afraid of the DFC's strong sense of purpose and precision in terms of its targets and how it has grown, says Fahmi, adding that certain parties have contacted them indirectly by sending representatives to certain groups in the DFC.

"These powers don't want us mobilising people into hitting the streets, or pushing them towards [voting for us] in elections. Moreover, they know that their rise to power didn't happen in a natural way, but to an extent was due to the withdrawal of the Sadrists."

While the ICP formed an alliance with the Sadrists in 2018, Fahmi says that there is no current plan for an alliance with the movement. "If the issues he [Moqtadr Sadr] proposes don't conflict with our programme, and if he is willing to work on the same demands as the DFC, then he is welcome. However, every party has its own path and right now, an alliance with the Sadrists isn't on the table - we are keen to preserve the DFC's identity as civilian and democratic."

Raid Fahmi is the secretary of the Iraqi Communist Party's Central Committee. [Al-Araby Al-Jadeed]

Regarding Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, Fahmi explains that while the PM's government's approach apparently takes many popular demands into account, it is difficult to see how he can implement the changes he proposes, especially as he came to power through the intervention of the Coordination Framework, which has "no interest, ultimately, in radical change".

When it comes to the atmosphere on the Iraqi street, Fahmi says that while some feel frustrated and tired of repeated attempts to bring about change; there are also those who have learned lessons from the protest movement. There are also some in the segments of society worst affected by Iraq's economic crises - like the dropping currency value – who have "have doubled down on their struggle and demand [for change]".

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Challenges ahead for the DFC

While the hoped-for civil programme will be able to offer a credible alternative to Iraqis, Fahmi knows that the DFC faces huge challenges ahead if they want to convert goodwill into votes at the ballot box.

Aside from that, finding "a discourse that addresses people's needs", "represents and defends them", and presents the programme in a way which stays true to its popular vision, says Fahmi, are all challenges for the DFC to grapple with in the coming weeks and months, as it fights to consolidate and take further strides towards a reality in which the radical changes Iraqis are desperate for can finally enter the realms of possibility.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition with additional reporting. To read the original article click here.

Translated by Rose Chacko

This article is taken from our Arabic sister publication, Al-Araby Al Jadeed and mirrors the source's original editorial guidelines and reporting policies. Any requests for correction or comment will be forwarded to the original authors and editors.

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