New elections, or maybe even a fresh round of civil conflict? The assault of parliament by followers of the Shia leader is causing damage to the democratic process in Iraq.

Muqtada al-Sadr

The tattered Iraqi democracy is once again put to the test, this time at the price of the people of Iraq, who are bearing the brunt of the examination. During the previous week, followers of the Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr broke into the Iraqi parliament on two separate occasions and began a sit-in there. They were successful in stopping the election of Mohammad Shia al-Sudani as prime minister that was planned to take place as a result of their protest. The Shia Coordination Framework, a coalition of Shia parties that does not include al-party, Sadr's put up Al-name Sudani's as their candidate for the election.

Since the elections that took place in October 2021, Iraq has been mired in a political impasse, and the mostly split Shia factions are vying for their power inside the country. The Fatah Alliance and the al-Nasr Alliance, two established Shia organizations associated with Iran, suffered huge losses, while the party of Shia cleric al-Sadr emerged triumphant with 73 of the 329 seats. After the election, al-objective Sadr's was to establish a majority administration via the formation of a tripartite alliance that included his organization, a Sunni coalition known as the Taqaddum coalition, and the Kurdish Democratic Party. On the other side, the Shiite coordination framework advocated for the maintenance of Iraq's traditional unified government, in which it expressed a desire to participate, and it urged for its continuance.

Following the failure to create a government, members of Sadr's party tendered their resignations as lawmakers. In terms of the creation of the government, this placed the ball into play inside the Shiite coordinating framework. On the other hand, many people believe that Sadr withdrew from parliament in order to make a strategic move in order to acquire credibility among the masses as a claimed outsider of a corrupt politically elite and thus rally troops for rallies. In light of this, the greatest demonstrations that have taken place since the widespread demonstrations that began in October 2019 and the sit-in that took place in parliament were not unexpected in the least.

There is no connection between al-Sudani and the present protesters in any way. Al-Sudani is being portrayed as a puppet of Nouri al-Maliki, the leader of the State of Law coalition and the former prime minister of Iraq from 2006 to 2014, by the "Sadrists," who are supporters of al-Sadr. However, according to Iraqi experts, the two men rarely come into close proximity with one another. Also, as compared to other prospective candidates, al-Sudani, who served as minister for human rights under Nouri al-Maliki, should not be awarded a lower credit score in and of himself. However, in light of recent developments, al-Sudani is not likely to be a candidate for the position of prime minister.

It would seem that there is no way to sidestep the populist kingmaker Sadr. On the one hand, he denounces corruption, incompetence, and Iran's influence on Iraq; but, he is anything from a clean guy himself, and via his rash acts, he significantly reduces the probability that Iraq would choose a road that is peaceful and democratic. This has the potential to put in motion a chain reaction of escalation, which has not yet resulted in the loss of any lives but has already resulted in more than one hundred injuries to protestors and members of the security forces. The possibilities range from holding fresh elections to engaging in another civil war. However, there are now two variables that make the possibility of a civil war exceedingly unlikely: First, with al-Sadr and the Shiite coordination framework, Iraqi Shia forces are made up of people who have different perspectives on Iran's influence over Iraq and the form of government, but who share religious views and are currently observing the holy month of Muharram. 
During this period, it is strictly illegal to wage war. Second, the individuals involved in the game of power are keenly aware of the fact that a civil war might limit their portion of the power pie, resulting in an absence of money that can be distributed. 

The democratic process and the people of Iraq are going to suffer as a result of the political embargo. The legitimacy of the parliament was already in doubt because to the low voting participation of 43.5 percent; but, with the resignation of the sadistic MPs, the legitimacy of the parliament is much more in question since it now just represents a minority of the public. Their faith in democratic institutions has already been jolted to a significant degree. The most violent mass protests in Iraqi history since 2003 took place from October to December 2019 across large parts of the country. The young population of Iraq, in particular, took to the streets to voice their discontent with rampant corruption, a lack of government services, high unemployment, and the political system. The demonstrations were suppressed with excessive force by security forces in Iraq, which caused to the deaths and injuries of hundreds of protestors. The fundamental reform of the political system (including the removal of the so-called Muhasasa system, an ethnic-religious quota system), as well as the establishment of a new administration that was free from corruption, was one of the central demands of the Tishreen (October) movement. Both criteria were not satisfied to a significant degree. As a result, the Tishreen movement would have every justification in the world to stage another protest in the streets.

Despite this, the movement is more fractured than it has ever been. The movement was infiltrated by radical and religious groups, and these forces attempted to impose their aims on the movement. Others joined political groups that emerged as a result of the protest movement, while others sold their votes to the government in the hopes of getting a better position. As a result, it is likely that the movement has a lower capacity for mobilization now than it had in the past.

The longer the political embargo continues, the more the populace will lose what little faith they still have in democracy, and the less likely it will be that the political crisis can be addressed peacefully. The political establishment's inability to effect change within the existing system has been abundantly clear over the last several years. More political activity by Iraqi residents, in the form of participation in free and fair elections, as well as some pressure from the streets, might bring about the change that has been eagerly desired for so long. In order to accomplish this goal, however, corrupt elites would have to give up their tenacious grip on power and pave the way for a democracy that exists not just on paper but also in real life.
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