Protests continue in Iraq. Almost a year of protests in Iraq, in fact, a few days from one full year of protesting. The protesters have been targeted, threatened, wounded and killed. But they have continued to protest. They have raised awareness, made demands and brought down prime minister Adel Abdul Mahdi -- the US CIA's personal choice for prime minister since 2006.
Mustafa al-Kadhimi is the current prime minister and he's promised a lot. Some of his friends in the press -- he's a former journalist -- pretend like he's delivered a great deal since May 7th (when he became prime minister) but that's not really true. Take early elections. He's promised them. His words say that they will take place on June 6th.
Those are lovely words -- with an emphasis on words.
There's still no election law and there's no push for it. There's no movement on this issue.
Even if there were movement, not everyone feels Mustafa's efforts or 'efforts' are enough. Hayder al-Shakeri (ALJAZEERA) points out:
While some have welcomed the announcement, many Iraqis are worried holding yet another election without major reforms, especially to laws that guide the electoral process, will not result in a free, fair and transparent vote in which independent candidates or new political forces would actually stand a chance.
In 2003, Iraqis were told they would be allowed to decide their own destiny. In 2005, a constitution was drafted which was supposed to lay the foundations of a democratic regime and citizens were finally allowed to vote in free elections, thus putting an end to authoritarian rule and injustice. Or so they thought.
However, what many Iraqis did not know at the time was the ethno-sectarian muhasasa system installed in Iraq by the United States and its allies would lead to the entrenchment of a corrupt political elite which itself would start abusing power.
The system, which divides cabinet and parliamentary seats along sectarian lines, was set up to supposedly accommodate historically marginalised groups. However, this system ended up allowing sectarian parties to entrench themselves and distribute among their elite government positions and state resources.
The parliamentary elections that have taken place since 2005 have not brought about the necessary change in power. Instead, they have only served to bring illusory legitimacy to a political elite that is increasingly corrupt, detached from the general population, and unaccountable.
The lack of change on the political scene, the deteriorating socioeconomic conditions in the country, and the growing record of electoral violations have left Iraqis disillusioned with the electoral process. The 2018 parliamentary vote saw the lowest turnout since 2005 – 44 percent. If there is no radical change in the political set-up of the country and relevant laws, the election planned for 2021 will probably see an even lower turnout.
When the Iraqi protests erupted in October 2019, one of the main demands quickly became the passing of legislation to curb the power of establishment parties and the de-politicisation of the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) in order to allow for fair competition at the polls. But changes that have been made are inadequate while existing laws have too many loopholes or are too difficult to enforce to guarantee fair elections.
In December 2019, the parliament voted to amend the electoral law which now allows voters to choose individual candidates rather than party lists and establishes voting on a district, rather than provincial level. Although the amended law was meant to curb the power of establishment parties, protesters and experts have already criticised it for its dysfunctionality and loopholes.
For example, the borders of the electoral districts will be decided by the same powerful parties the law is supposed to weaken. They can draw the district map in such a way as to maintain ethno-sectarian divisions and maximise their votes.
They didn't protest to re-elect people to carry out the same problems and abuses.
Meanwhile Omar Sattar insists at AL-MONITOR:
Since he took office in May, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has made a series of changes in senior and sensitive security positions to improve the security institutions’ performance. The moves have raised concerns in various political blocs that see these changes as strengthening Kadhimi's power.
Among the most prominent changes was the reinstatement of Lt. Gen. Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi — who had been dismissed in 2019 by Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi — to lead the counterterrorism agency. Kadhimi also appointed former Interior Minister Qasim al-Araji as national security adviser, replacing Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) head Faleh al-Fayadh. Fayadh also was replaced as head of the National Security Agency by Gen. Abdul-Ghani al-Asadi, a former commander of the antiterrorism agency.
Kadhimi appointed Gen. Arqan Watout as the manager of the intelligence department protecting public facilities and figures. Also, former Defense Minister Khalid al-Obeidi was appointed as head of the operations center in the Iraqi National Intelligence Service; Maj. Gen. Maan al-Saad was appointed as commander of the air force, succeeding Lt. Gen. Jabbar Kadhim; and Maj. Gen. Hamid al-Zuhairi was placed in charge of protecting public facilities.
A source close to Kadhimi told Al-Monitor, “Kadhimi seeks to save the security institutions from political and partisan conflicts and to develop their capabilities by appointing competent leaders."
New York, September 23, 2020 – Kurdish authorities in Iraq should immediately release journalist Bahroz Jaafer, drop all charges against him, and allow the press to cover and write critically about politicians without fear of detention or legal action, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Yesterday, police arrested Jaafer, a columnist for the independent news website Peyser Press, in the northeastern Iraqi Kurdish city of Sulaymaniyah and transferred him to the Azmar police station, where he remains in detention, according to news reports and a statement by the Metro Center for Journalists’ Rights and Advocacy, a local press freedom group.
Authorities charged Jaafer with criminal defamation, according to the Metro Center. If tried and convicted under Article 433 of Iraq’s penal code, Jaafer could face up to one year in jail and a fine of up to 100 dinars (about 8 US cents).
The arrest was sparked by a defamation complaint filed by the lawyer of Iraqi President Barham Salih, in response to a column by Jaafer criticizing the president, according to those reports.
“Iraqi authorities should develop a thicker skin and stop resorting to the criminal code to stifle critical reporting and commentary,” said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa representative, Ignacio Miguel Delgado. “Iraqi President Salih should immediately drop the defamation complaint against journalist Bahroz Jaafer, and local authorities should release him unconditionally.”
On August 29, Jaafer published a column titled “How much longer will the president be driving the wrong side?” in which he criticized Salih, also an ethnic Kurd, for allegedly failing to support Iraqi Kurdistan amid disputes with the national government over land, oil, and the autonomous region’s budget.
Karwan Anwar, head of the Sulaymaniyah branch of the government-funded Kurdistan Journalists’ Syndicate, told local broadcaster Rudaw that Jaafer, a member of the syndicate, is required to remain in detention until a hearing scheduled for September 30, unless he is granted bail beforehand.
The Iraqi president’s media office did not immediately reply to CPJ’s request for comment sent via messaging app. Dindar Zebari, the Kurdish regional government’s coordinator for international advocacy, did not immediately reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment.