Iraqi parties are negotiating to form a new government after mass unrest

Iraqi parties are negotiating to form a new government after mass unrest
Iraqi parties are holding talks to form a new government at the back of the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Adel Mahdi on Saturday, following months of violent protest.
2 min read
03 December, 2019
Iraqi protesters gathering outside Tahrir Square in October, calling for deep-rooted political change
Iraqi's political parties have started talks to form a new administration on Monday, following nationwide protests that brought down the previous govermnet 

On Saturday, former Prime Minister Adel Adel Mahdi submitted his resignation letter.

A sermon delivered by influential Shia cleric Ayatollah Ali Sistani, in which he ramped up demands for complete replacement of the ruling cabinet, is widely seen as the catalyst for his resignation.

Violence in Iraq has been bloody in recent months, resulting in the deaths of over 420 demonstrators who called for deep-rooted political change.

Read more: Iraqis in protest and mourning as bloody crackdown

The Iraqi parliament has tasked the president with naming a new candidate on Sunday. Achieving political consensus is likely to be a slow process. Competing factions in Iraq often engage in in lengthy, drawn-out discussions before arriving at a decision.

Harith Hasan, a fellow at the Carnegie Middle East Center, describes the web of complexicity in which any future candidate is embroiled.

To survive, they must be "widely accepted by the diverse centres of power, not objected to by the marjaiyah (Shia religious establishment), and not hated by the street".

Add to this task of negotiating Iraq’s extremely sensitive relations with two arch rivals: Washington and Tehran. Abdel Mahdi had been regarded as shrewdly capable of pleasing both sides.

Qassem Soleimani, head of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps' foreign operations arm, arrived in Iraq only last week for talks.

Washington accuses Soleimani's presence in Iraq is proof of Iranian interference and desire to exploit its neighbour. 

Read more: US says leaders must address grievances after PM quits.

Protests erupted in October in Iraq's capital and the Shia-majority south. Anger was directed at the ruling system, seen as corrupt, inept and subservient to foreign powers.

Despite Iraq's fortune as OPEC's second-largest crude producer, World Bank estimates hold that one in five Iraqis live in poverty and youth employment stands at one quarter.

These endemic problems require more radical solutions than Abdel Mahdi's resignation, according to protestors.

"We demand the entire government be changed from its roots up," Mohammad Al-Mashhadani, a doctor protesting in Baghdad's Tahrir Square, said on Monday.

A complete outsider, however, is unlikely to be trusted by the established political class, he said.

In addition to the rising death toll from protests, rights groups have drawn attention to the ongoing harassment, kidnapping and killing of activists, medics in regular protester in recent months.

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