Iraqi President, Reform Prospects of  Political Process

Abdel Nasser al-Mahdawy

New Iraq Center Advisor

Translated by Shaimaa Shedeed

During my work in the administration in 2009-2011, I have communicated directly with most of the Iraqi senior officials. In fact, I found that each one has his own vision and ideology and even his own way performing his assigned role. Close relationship is somehow required in order to accurately judge a leading politician, but sometimes long life experience can help in getting general impression  after one or several meetings with some officials have been influencing the political situation to date. In this article, we are tackling a personality whose critical importance lies in the role it can play in the process of political reform in a state exposed to severe crises left hundreds of thousands of Iraqi innocent causalities.

At the beginning, it is noteworthy that the executive power represented in the President Barham Saleh and Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi is deemed as opportunity for Iraqis to get their dream of reforming the political system and the political process real despite all problems that may accompany such reform and despite the dominance of the sectarian project. It should also be noted that the parliamentary elections in 2018 were the worst in terms of participation and rigging in spite of its untraditional outcome that included two combating currents. These currents are the radical stream that represents the old system and other reforming streams that represent the Iraqi street trend which refuses corruption and calls for reform, which referred to fair and valid conclusion.

Personality of Barham Saleh has some distinguishing aspects and has accumulated experience can help in performing its role perfectly while the Iraqi people with different streams can depend on him to assign the task of reform to Adel Abdul Mahdi regardless his ministerial cabinet whose of which formation has been crippled due to the political competition of the two factions dominating the Iraqi parliament. Frankly talking, his features remind me with the personality of former passed president Mam Galal who impeded the unilateralist trend of the ruling regime then. Although such unilateralist trend could have the upper hand later, we can’t deny the efforts of former President Mam Galal in this regard. Today, since the first months Barham took over his post, he has been seeking for being a wild card in the equation of the executive power and he is fully functioning to fulfill his key tasks topped by protecting the constitution.

One of the most problematic issues in the last tenure of al-Sayyed al-Abbady was the suspension of the constitution. This trend was supported by the successive cabinets who dealt with the constitution with double standard. They used to submit to the clauses serving their vision and interests and suspend those clauses against their goals. Absence of federal council whose job is to properly formulate the articles of the law by law experts according to clause number 65 in the constitution is a case point. Actually, the tenures of Gaafary and al-Maliki witnessed the severest suspension of the constitution especially in the file of human rights as the secret prisons and torture of detainees spread.

According to the Iraqi constitution, president has influential and executive power as in clause number 66 stating that the executive federal power consists of the President and the Cabinet and performs its key roles in accordance with the law and constitution. In article number 67, the republic president is the state president and the symbol of the state unity, he represents the state’s sovereignty, he keeps guaranteeing the commitment to the constitution. Thus, Barham can effectuate all suspended constitutional articles as per his words in the speech given in the Mediterranean dialogue conference in November 22, 2018. “Ending the crises that plague Iraq also requires a reconstruction of the current political order to restore citizen trust in the government. A reformed political order must be based on protecting constitution, keeping the civil state that strengthens civic values, supporting the role of women and their rights and ensuring a commitment to human rights principles,” said Saleh.

The reform and change vision prevailed in the speech when he said ” I can say that now there is a chance for redirecting Iraq to stability and development and this requires basic internal processes equally political and economic. In this regard, Iraq needs internal dialogue to cure the inner structural gaps nested in the political system since 2003. Iraqi people suffer due to long time of conflicts and failure in presenting services. Provision of basic services such as water and power, reconstruction of cities demolished due to war against ISIS and return of migrants represent an urgent challenge for Iraq. Corruption and misuse of public funds cripple the Iraqi life capability and reinforce the circle of conflict and terrorism, so the corruption swamps should be dried.”

“A most important and consequential challenge for Iraq today is economic reform and regeneration. Iraq is endowed with immense natural resources, water and fertile land— and an indispensable geopolitical position that can become the hub for regional trade and economic integration.  Yet decades of war, sanctions, conflicts, economic mismanagement and corruption have turned Iraq into an extreme rentier state. This is unsustainable— we are today a 38 million population, and increasing at a rate of one million each year— youth unemployment is rampant— this is a profound security, social and development challenge,” he added.

“The new government led by Adil Abdul Mahdi, a pragmatic reformer and economist, is pursuing an ambitious economic restructuring agenda based on empowering the private sector and promoting investment. The unity of Iraq and its security is crucially dependent on strengthening infrastructure links within Iraq and with the neighborhood. This is imperative to bind the country together and to promote common interests with the neighbors and to ensure job opportunities for our youth,” he noted.

The Iraqi President also highlighted that in order to get Iraq succeeded and stabilized, it requires a regional system can be a pillar for the stability. “Iraq has been a field for the conflicts of regional forces and for competition between powerful regional and international sides, which worsened the situation and deepened the crisis. For 40 years, Iraq has been shifted from a war to another and from a crisis to another, this should end. It’s time for getting Iraq to stability and development. Iraq is an important state in the Arab world and such importance is a vital pillar for us on the economic and political levels and we affirm fully development of ties with all Arab and Gulf neighbors.”

In the foregoing, the light has been shed on the words of Barham Saleh where we can see a clear vision based on reform principles and on accurate examination of the Iraqi reality in general and the political and economic reality in specific. No doubt, the challenges faced by Saleh are complicated and lethal and requires a political wise pours in the Iraqi state’s and Iraqis’ interests equally. At the meantime, we believe that he will support the reforming moves of Abdul Mahdi as both have vision of similar features and have same leadership traits that the Iraq really needs today.

The wisdom of Saleh and his political acumen will reframe the complicated political situations among allies and warring factions equally because he is in good relations with all factions internally and even on the regional and international level. His realistic vision will help him building relationships internationally and regionally on bases of common interests rather than loyalty to a sole system or a sole pivot and will seek for enhancing the Iraqi independence and sovereignty in a realistic way. Since Iraq today is witnessing an increasing international and regional leverage and the Iraqi streets have become classifying the politicians according to their loyalty to this regional project or that international one, we hope this rule will be wise and based on protecting the citizenship and dignified life for all Iraqi people.

It is thus hoped that Saleh and Mahdi will work on files of freedoms, human rights, displaced people, migrants and reconstruction in addition to other files representing a real challenge for the government and that  Saleh fulfill his mission of changing the wrong path of the pervious consecutive governments that left nothing but destruction. Today, we mountain our hopes on the reform process initiated by both Saleh and Adel.

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