Iraq at a crucial moment (Part 1)

Sadrist rally during Iraq’s 2018 parliamentary election campaign
Followers of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr wave flags during a campaign rally in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square before May 2018 parliamentary elections (source: dpa)
  • Iraq’s choice of prime minister and president breaks the mold of traditional politics
  • Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani’s intervention was decisive in picking a moderate
  • Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi has the skills to tackle Iraq’s manifold problems

Iraqi democracy took a new turn in 2018, breaking with some traditional patterns. In the May elections, many Sunnis joined Shia-controlled coalitions. Sairun, led by the junior Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, had the most surprising makeup, crossing the religious divide to attract communists and other secular groups. More ominously, armed militias (all of them pro-Iranian) ran as political parties for the first time, making no attempt to present themselves as civic organizations.

The turnout of 44.5 percent on election day was disappointing. It compared poorly with the 70 percent of eligible Iraqis who voted in 2005, and with the 60 percent in 2014. Low participation is evidence of the disillusionment most Iraqis feel about their government.

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