Alwaght- The Iraqi protests in some parts of the country, mainly in the capital Baghdad, have been hammering on the nation’s political scene for a week now, leaving the Arab country in turmoil. After passing the ordeal of the fight against ISIS terrorist group that largely captured and devastated parts of the country and was defeated only in a costly war, now a new wave of crisis is smashing the country that does not seem to have a specific direction and demands.
The protests so far have been met by various reactions of the political parties. Some political elites are supporting Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, backing his government’s stay in power, and are calling for an immediate calm. On the opposite side, other elites are calling on him to step down and allow a snap parliamentary election.
Among them is Muqtada al-Sadr, the leader of the Saeroon parliamentary alliance, who called for the PM to resign. He called for UN-supervised parliamentary election and suspended his lawmakers’ activities at the parliament, officially Council of Representatives of Iraq.
Also, the former PM and leader of Nasr parliamentary alliance Haider al-Abadi in a Facebook message addressed the people and the political forces telling them that “because there is no clear outlook ahead of the people-demanded reforms, I call for an early election until 2020 to form a government of law with the ability to accomplish its national duties."
The question is that to what degree Abdul Mahdi's resignation can work for the country and serve the national interests and bring back security and stability to the nation.
The fact is that the political situation and the demonstrations in Iraq are never about the cabinet or a specific individual and the resignation of the government’s head will not sweep the problems under the rug. Despite all of the challenges ahead, Iraq enjoys appropriate democracy and free elections compared to the other Arab countries ruled by despotic regimes. The political process is open enough to free power circulation employing elections. So, the demands by some of the demonstrators and opponents who by the way are linked to the foreign powers are not ouster of a specific individual but an all-out reformation of the political and economic structure.
Will early elections stabilize the country and address the demonstrators’ demands? Will such challenges as unemployment, corruption, and flawed economic system be tackled after the elections? Apparent enough, ousting PM Abdul-Mahdi not only will not solve the crisis in the country but also it will facilitate the political tensions and pave the way for an even broader crisis. Holding the elections while at present the citizens are expressing their strong disapproval with the political system beside its time taking will put a huge financial burden on the country. Further tensions and even clashes between the political sections is also a potential side effect of an early election.
Such pessimism about the snap elections invites to a way to address the current situation. What can the Iraqi leaders do to conveniently address the demands made by the street protestors?
The statement by grand Shiite cleric Ayatollah Sayyed Ali al-Sistani can largely be taken as a roadmap enlightening the way of the political leaders and the government in such a murky political situation. Admitting the mistakes and shortcomings and starting immediate efforts to remove them and tangibly improve the living conditions is a strategy that can be found by the protestors logical and pragmatic. Destruction and demolition is an easy job that everyone can do. What is important, and difficult of course, is reformation and construction that is pinpointed in Ayatollah al-Sistani’s statement which was released on Friday by his office.
The statement at first step strongly condemns the intentional violence that seeks to fuel riot and tensions and launch a “death project” whose victims are ordinary people and the security forces. It blasted the attacks on the demonstrators, security forces, and public utilities in Baghdad and a number of other provinces. The statement called reforms “necessary” and urged the heads of the three powers to take practical steps towards this aim.
Ahmad al-Safi, the representative to Ayatollah al-Sistani, called on the three powers to engage in “real” reforms and said that the parliament has a heavier responsibility in this case. He added: “We earlier asked the officials to fight corruption and suggested a commission comprised of experts and competent people outside the government body to be tasked with watching the country’s conditions and recommending of practical steps to solve the problems.” He went on that the suggestion was ignored but in the present conditions it can provide a suitable solution.
The Ayatollah al-Sistani’s statement puts ahead of the politicians a roadmap to weather the home crisis while it at the same time strongly criticizes the political elites’ performance that helped build a ground for the new critical situation. The PM welcomed the statement. Reacting to it, Abdul-Mahdi said that the “clergy once again proved that it is a flame and strength showing the right direction in the difficult days.”