The new Iraqi government headed by Mustafa al-Kadhimi was finally endorsed by the Parliament in the early hours of 7th May after several weeks of manoeuvres by the ruling blocs and an undeclared US-Iranian consensus. This important development came about more than 5 months after the previous Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi was forced to announce his resignation after a massacre of tens of young protesters committed by security forces in the city of Naseriyah in southern Iraq. Two previous nominees for the post of PM had failed to win consensus among the big blocs that dominate the sectarian-ethnic quota system. The latter attempted to keep Adel Abdul-Mehdi’s caretaker government in power despite fierce opposition from the protesters.
Among the principal demands of the Popular Uprising, that erupted on 1 October 2019, was the setting up of a transitional government that would prepare for early elections and also bring to justice those responsible for killing more than 700 peaceful protesters.
The obstinate refusal of the ruling blocs to comply with the demands of popular protests deepened the political impasse. An already deep political crisis was further aggravated by the coronavirus pandemic and an unprecedented economic crisis caused by the sharp fall in the prices of oil. Worst hit by these two recent crises were the poor and low-income strata. Popular resentment therefore intensified, threatening to ignite a new wave of protests with far-reaching consequences for the corrupt oligarchy. Furthermore, there has been a recent upsurge in terrorist attacks by remnants of Daesh targeting security forces in some areas in three provinces north of Baghdad.
The formation of Al-Kadhimi’s government thus came about as a result of the current balance of forces, the clinging of ruling blocs to the sectarian-ethnic quota system and external interference in Iraq’s internal affairs. But it also reflects the new facts that have been created in the political scene by the courageous October Popular Uprising.
The new PM declared in the programme which he presented to the Parliament that his government is transitional. He mentioned a number of important issues that are among the main demands of the people and the Uprising.
The Iraqi Communist Party had elucidated these urgent demands soon after the eruption of the popular uprising last October. They were further developed after the coronavirus pandemic and the new economic crisis. An editorial of the party newspaper “Tareeq Al-Shaab” (People’s Path) on 8 May 2020 said that Al-Kadhimi’s transitional government has specific tasks, in the forefront of which are the following:
1- Combating the Corona pandemic, tackling its consequences and building an effective health sector that provides free basic medical services to citizens.
2- Alleviating the suffering of the people, especially the poor and low-income strata.
3- Confronting Daesh and terrorist groups through an integrated host of measures on security, political, economic, media and other levels.
4- Conducting early elections under effective UN supervision and on the basis of a just electoral system. The right of expression, the right to peaceful demonstrations and protests, civil freedoms and women’s rights must be respected.
5- Bringing to account those responsible for killing the peaceful protesters, halting all proceedings and harassment against them, and annulling the infamous “pledges” extracted under torture.
6- Taking firm measures against corruption and opening all cases, big and small.
7- Resolving the issues of the iinternall-displaced people, reveal the fate of the forcibly disappeared, and rebuilding the areas that were liberated from Daesh.
8- Dismantling the Deep State, taking concrete steps to ensure that arms are totally under the control of the state, and putting an end to the role of militias and outlawed armed elements.
9- Adopting an alternative economic policy that leads to sustainable development, tackling the rentier state of the economy, diversifying it and reviving the productive sectors: agriculture, industry and services, in addition to tackling the high levels of unemployment and poverty.
10- Protecting the sovereignty of the Iraqi state, ensuring the independence of national decision-making and preventing external interference in Iraq’s internal affairs.
One of the big challenges facing the new government is the fact that there is a lack of trust between the citizens and the state and its institutions as a result of sectarian politics and endemic corruption. Urgent steps are therefore needed to remove existing suspicions among the people. It is also quite clear that none of the promises made by the new PM, Al-Kadhimi, can be achieved without popular pressure.
The new government will therefore be judged on the basis of what it actually achieves, in deeds not words, regarding these priorities and concrete measures.
Iraqi Communists, meanwhile, remain fully committed to the demands of the people and the peaceful protest movement, and to continuing the popular pressure, until their goal in getting rid of the sectarian-ethnic quota system, and establishing the desired alternative: a democratic civil state and social justice, is achieved.