Prime minister designation; Iraqi political deadlock

Baghdad, a picture of the protests over the Turkish Restaurant, the demonstrations icon, November 2019. Photo: Ahmad Msalha

Ahmad Msalha

The protestors do not have a particular prime minister candidate, but have set the requirements for the person occupying the position, said Ihab Hassan, a protestor at the Tahrir Square in Baghdad. He stated, “since the beginning, the aim of the October Revolution has been political reforms and creating pressures to improve lives of people.”

He reaffirmed that, “the political parties are attempting to choose the same faces and impose their influence on the state without taking the demands of the nation and the peaceful protestors into consideration.”

“The October Revolution” is a popular phrase that the protestors use to express the social uprisings that have started in Baghdad and several provinces since October 2019, aiming at combating rampant corruption in the governmental institutions, creating job opportunities, and improving lives of citizens.

The protestors have faced a wave of violence that have resulted in the death of hundreds of protestors and injury of thousands. The violence fueled protestors’ persistence and demands to the extent that they have requested to change the entire political system.

On November 2019, the most senior Shia cleric in Iraq, Ali al-Sistani, asked the Council of Representatives to end its support for the government after two months of nationwide protests. The day after of his call, Adil Abdul-Mahdi, former prime minister, submitted his resignation letter to the parliament.

Even though his resignation brought hope to the protestors, they struggled with announcing their precise conditions for the next prime minister.

The Protestors Seven Requests 

On December 11, 2019, the protestors issued a statement, which was read on the protests’ icon, The Turkish Restaurant. “Through resistance, we toppled down the government of killing, but we are at the beginning of a new stage that requires more clarifications. As a result, after questioning and discussions, we thought it is important to indicate the characteristics of the new prime minster who will take office in transition period, prior to early elections,” the protestors announced.

The statement included seven conditions; PM should be independent and should not belong to any party, he has to have only Iraqi citizenship, and had not been a minister, governor, or parliament member before, he should be strong and transparent and has not been involved in corruption, and his age should not be over 55 years.

“He should promise that he is not going to run in the next elections and should comply with the demands of the revolutionaries. Also, his decision should be Iraqi and independent and should not oblige to outside interventions and the political blocs.”


Baghdad, Aya Marsomi, a woman protestor, February 16, 2020. Photo: Her Facebook Account  

Aya Marsomi, a woman protestor, said, “the nation has the highest authority in Iraq and does not accept a prime minister who does not fulfil those conditions.”

She insisted on the continuation of the protests until their demands are met.

 Marsomi spoke on the cooperation between the protesters taking place in different cities and explained that join cooperation committees have been formed from all the protests. The joint committees are in close contact and agree on statements issued by the protestors. 

The Nomination of the Old Faces

The situation remained the same and the protestor reaffirmed their demands and continued demonstration, however, the political parties did not listen to them and proposed different candidates who were not in parallel with protestors requirements.

“The politicians want to nominate the old faces and deceive the people. The protestors do not allow that,”Marsomi added.

Few politicians were proposed and supported for the prime ministership including Mohammed Shia' Al Sudani and Qusay al-Suhail, both were affiliated with the Sate of Law party.

On December 21 2019, Ali al-Sistani asked for the acceleration of the government formation and supported a government that is not disputed and restores the country.

“The next elections should be held in a determining environment and should be free of external interventions, weapons and money.”


Baghdad, the protestors are refusing the Basra Governor Asaad al-Eidani for the prime ministerhip, December 2019. Photo: Facebook Pages 

After the announcement of Ali al-Sistani and the rejection of the protestors, on December 25, 2019, Qusay al-Suhail reversed his decision to nominate himself for the positon.

Later, Basra Governor Asaad al-Eidani was nominated by the Shia bloc which forced Iraqi President Barham Salih to submit his letter of resignation to the Council of Representatives on December 26, 2019, refusing the to designate al-Eidani to form the new government, who was strongly rejected by the protestors.

In his letter to parliament, Salih said, “in the light of the imposed demands of the protestors, the national interest should come before the political and personal interest.”

The national interest should come before the political and personal interest

He also announced that he could not designate al-Eidani to form the next government, taking his duty towards his nation into consideration. Al-Eidani was not designated and President Salih continues in office as the president of the republic.

Iraqi president, based on the constitution, has the power to designate the prime minister to form Iraqi government.

Mohammed Iraqi, the spokesperson of Muqtada al-Sadr, wrote on his Facebook page, “after investigation, I reached a general conclusion on the designation of the prime minister, he should be accepted generally by the nation and later presents his plans. Then, his period in office will be determined.”

He presented three candidates who were Mustafa Kazmi, head of intelligence service, Rahim Egili,a judge, and Faiq Al Sheikh Ali, a parliament member, who were popular among some of the protestors who accepted him.

Sadr spokesperson later revoked the names because “the protestors did not respond him,” and asked the Sairun bloc in the parliament “not to designate any candidate neither now, nor in the future.”

 Mohammed Tewfik Allawi Designation

Sadr’s stance did not last long and soon through his bloc, biggest bloc with 54 parliament members out of 329, he nominated Mohammed Tewfik Allawi, 56, a former MP and minister.

On February 1, 2020, Allawi nomination was submitted to President Salih who designated him to form the new government.

Sadr called the Designation Allawi to form the government “a historical day” in a statement and reaffirmed that, “today, in Iraqi history, the designation of the prime minister by the nation is recorded, not by the political parties, which is a good step that can be strengthened in the future.”

The designation of the prime minister by the nations is recorded

But thousand of protestors refused him and took the street in Baghdad, Najaf, Karbala, Basra, Dhi Qar, and other cities, while Sadr claimed that Allawi has been designated in the name of the nation and supported him. Several parliament members of al-Fatih Coalition, led by Hadi al-Amiri, supported Allawi, too.

Sadr supporters in Baghdad and Najaf attacked those protestors who refused PM designate Allawi. At the Tahrir Square, the strong hold of the protestors, Sadr supporters, known as Blue Hats, cracked down on the protestors and removed them from the Turkish Restaurant building.

At the same time, at the Sadrin Square in Najaf, violent confrontations happened between the Blue Hats and the protestors, resulting in numerous deaths by Sadr protestors.

Allawi could not galvanize enough votes in the parliament and, as a result, failed to form the government even though he had the support of Sadr. Eventually, on March 1, he withdrew from PM nomination.

Iraqi presidency issued a statement in which itstated President Salih will start negotiation to designate another PM within 15 days as mentioned in the Iraqi constitution.

On February 26, 2020, hundreds of protestors waved pictures of Ala al-Rakbi in Baghdad, Najaf, and Nasiriya and asked for his designation as PM. al-Rakbi wanted to receive full support from the protestors. In the meantime, other demonstrators supported brigadier Abdel-Wahab al-Saadi, who did not reveal whether he wanted to be niminated or not.


Baghdad, a poster showing support to of Abdel-Wahab al-Saadi is hung on for Iraqi interim government, December 2019. Photo: Ahmad Msalha  

Latest statistics of Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights on the violence committed against protestors show that the death toll has reached 650, 25 thousand have been injured, and five thousand people have become disable.

Since the spark of the protests October 2019, the protestors have demanded a government that is radically different from those they had before in order to achieve a homeland that houses everyone, but the political parties have failed to nominate someone who is supported by the protestors. Perhaps, as Marsomi said, “The politicians want to nominate the old faces and deceive the people.”

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