Since the election of the new National Assembly in October last year, Iraq has not been able to form a new ruling coalition approved by the majority of parliamentarians for nearly a year, and a new president and a new prime minister have not been elected as a result.
The original largest party, the anti-Iranian “Sadr Movement”, made 73 members of the party resign collectively in June this year, and sent people to break into the National Assembly building twice in July to protest the belonging of former pro-Iran Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. desired new prime minister. After the protest failed, Sadr, a Shiite religious leader, announced his withdrawal from politics on August 29, triggering supporters to storm the “Green Zone” Republic Palace and other facilities, killing 30 people and injuring more than 700.
Although Sadr appeared in time to “put out the fire”, the political stalemate in Iraq for nearly a year is still unresolved. The caretaker Prime Minister Mustafa Kadimi, who has a soft figure and is generally friendly to the United States, is unable to turn the tide because of his lack of political party foundation. He can only warn all parties that if the situation continues to deteriorate, he will completely give up.
Kurdish President Barham Saleh, who is seeking re-election, has called for early parliamentary elections. But according to the Iraqi constitution, the dissolution of parliament requires the approval of an absolute majority of lawmakers, and the time has not yet come. On September 7, the Federal Supreme Court rejected a request by the Sadr movement to dissolve the parliament.
Looking at the world, Israel, Lebanon, Belgium, Spain and other parliamentary countries have frequently encountered difficulties in forming cabinets in recent years. The difference is that in Iraq, where the foundation of democracy is still shallow, the crisis of forming a cabinet may lead to a “political crisis” and even detonate a “general crisis” of the entire country.
Liberal Democracy vs Stable Order
In the nearly 20 years of post-war reconstruction, Iraq has experienced the formulation of a new constitution and multiple rounds of elections. It is relatively easy to formulate constitutions and political rules, but for a late-developing country like Iraq, which lacks democratic traditions, lacks national identity, and has diverse ethnic groups and sects, the establishment of democratic politics has experienced many twists and turns.
Iraqis have lived under various “authoritarian regimes”, including the British “mandate”, the monarchical Faisal dynasty, and Saddam’s Baath regime. An authoritarian system can achieve order and stability through coercion, but once people taste the sweetness of freedom, not many people are willing to return to the authoritarian system.
The Iraq War in 2003 overthrew Saddam’s authoritarian rule by external forces, and then established a parliamentary democracy in law and form of government. However, how to balance liberal democracy and stable order is the first “dilemma” faced by Iraq.
Compared with the authoritarian system, which has various excuses and means to suppress the conflicts and conflicts between ethnic groups and sects, the parliamentary democratic system cannot. Under the parliamentary democratic system, various social forces will express their demands and influence policies through political channels (such as forming political parties, demonstrations, etc.). This will become the outlet and amplifier of various social conflicts, which in turn threatens the stable order. If the political parties divided by ethnic groups and sects have insufficient ability to integrate, and there is a lack of tolerance and compromise between different political forces, it may lead to a political deadlock, which is the current reality in Iraq.
Party Government vs Expert Government
Under the parliamentary democratic system, the party government can achieve the representativeness and responsiveness of modern democracy, but it often encounters difficulties in forming a cabinet and government instability; expert governments can overcome the defects of forming a cabinet and government instability, but cannot meet the representativeness and responsiveness. requirements. Therefore, how to choose between a political party government and an expert government is the second “dilemma” faced by Iraq.
The modern party government is reflected in that the cabinet is composed and controlled by political parties or coalitions of political parties. Specifically, the members of the parliament have clear party affiliations and have the decision-making power over all major affairs; the members of the government (including the prime minister and cabinet members) come from the political party or coalition of political parties that obtains the majority of seats in the parliament. Compared with a “non-party government”, the advantage of a party government lies in its stronger legitimacy of public opinion, stronger personnel cohesion, and a clearer sense of responsibility and responsiveness.
However, in the case of fragmented parties, the party government will face the dilemma of forming a cabinet. This is the predicament of Iraq: after the 2021 election, the largest party will only account for 22% of the seats, and it will be difficult for the parties to reach a consensus on forming a cabinet.
The so-called “Sadr Movement” shutting down major institutions and “withdrawing from the political process” is only brewing for the next round of forcing the palace against “corrupt politicians” in its eyes, rather than a real cessation.
In order to overcome the defects of the party government, Iraqi politicians have tried to establish a “professional talent cabinet” according to the expert government model. Its main feature is that non-partisan technocrats serve as cabinet members. When the Iraqi interim government was established in June 2004, the National Unity Front led by Iyad Allawi tried to set aside factional disputes and establish a pragmatic government composed purely of experts. However, from the final list, at that time, The new government failed to break away from the partisan, ethnic, and sectarian power distribution model that the United States used when it established the Temporary Council.
In 2015, when the Iraqi economy was at a slump, then Prime Minister al-Abadi announced the launch of radical political reforms, focusing on stopping government positions based on sectarian and party backgrounds and establishing an “expert government” with a cabinet composed of technocrats. However, the reform was abandoned due to many obstacles.
Secular Politics vs Religious Power
Political secularization is the trend of political development since modern times, and it is also an important prerequisite for the formation of modern democracy, because secularization reduces the intensity of religious conflicts and allows competition and compromise to have a larger living space. On the other hand, religious consciousness and religious organizations have become the main basis for political mobilization and political integration in many late-developing countries, without any effective tools for political mobilization and integration. Therefore, how to choose between secular political and religious power is the third “dilemma” faced by Iraq.
The reason why the reform idea of “expert government” mentioned above is difficult to implement is because it has impacted the “coordinated democracy” model in which state power is distributed proportionally according to religion and ethnic group.
From the perspective of religious identity and ethnic identity, Iraq’s population is mainly composed of three parts, namely Shia Arabs, Sunni Arabs and Kurds. After the reconstruction of Iraq, according to the model of concord democracy, Kurds hold the presidency, Sunni Arabs hold the post of speaker, and the most powerful prime minister is held by Shiite Arabs, who account for the largest proportion of the population.
The model of synergy democracy tries to take into account the interests of different ethnic groups and sects, which is in line with the reality of Iraq to a certain extent. However, the defect of synergistic democracy is that it is not committed to the integration of different ethnic groups and sects, but tends to lock and strengthen existing social divisions, providing political mobilization and party formation based on ethnic and religious identities. space and resources.
Those who recently stormed the parliament building and the former presidential palace were supporters of the Shiite religious leader al-Sadr. Sadr is not a member of parliament nor holds public office in the government, but leads his own political party as a religious leader – the “Sadr Movement”. The party holds the top spot with 73 of 329 seats, a testament to the importance of religious identity in Iraqi political mobilization.
Because religious power and secular politics are entangled and inextricable in Iraq, the so-called “Sadr movement” shutting down major institutions and “exiting the political process” is only brewing the next round of forcing the palace against what it sees as “corrupt politicians”. rather than a real demise. Iraq’s future is still worrying.