Iraq’s protests continue in some parts of the country after over two months. The rightful demands of the people, mainly driven by corruption, poor services, and most importantly unemployment were hijacked by some domestic parties and foreign players in the midway and thus were derailed from their right course. The main victim of this derailment was the government whose one-year life ended as its Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi resigned over the weekend and called the parliament to start the debate for a new cabinet.
Abdul Mahdi published a statement on Saturday announcing in it his resignation. His quitting raises some questions: Does his resignation represent a solution to this crisis? Where does the country’s political scene go after this resignation? A set of scenarios are imaginable for the nation’s politics after this step. Each scenario surely has its potentials and limits.
First scenario: Introducing a new PM within 15 days to form a new cabinet
The first scenario to the Iraqi politics after Abdul Mahdi’s quitting is that the president, Barham Saleh, will name a successor within half a month. The new PM will introduce his cabinet to the parliament for a vote of confidence. Although this is a path designed by the constitution for such a situation, Iraq’s experiences mainly after 2010 show that forming a new government is one of the hardest jobs to do. In 2010, it took the country 8 months to agree on the structure of a new cabinet. An agreement between the political parties in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish autonomous region in the north of the country, brought a new government to existence.
Currently, national politics is racked by substantial differences among the political parties making it highly unlikely that the political sides agree on a new head of government with 15 days. Actually, reaching a consensus on a new figure to lead the new cabinet is one of the most difficult missions that looks far from being accomplishable within the constitutional timeframe.
Holding early parliamentary elections
Another likely scenario is announcing early elections. This scenario looks much more sensible than the first one and can have large-scale support by the political factions. So, it can be labeled the likeliest one. This scenario has its difficulties for implementation, however.
According to article 64 of the Iraqi constitution, early election requires the president’s agreement with the PM’s demand for parliament dissolution and inviting for elections within 60 days. This is possible only if the majority of the parliament, 156 lawmakers, green light it. Yet another way is that one-third of the lawmakers, 110 votes, ask for the dissolution and the parliament with absolute majority votes in favor of the demand. Under this condition, the president calls for general elections to be held within 60 days. The council of ministers is dissolved but will act as a caretaker body.
Though this scenario has the biggest chance, the members of parliament and political leaders have not shown a strong interest to dissolve the parliament and hold early elections.
Changing constitution and shifting to the presidential system
Another likely scenario that since the beginning of the protests was entertained by some political figures is the change of constitution and shift to a presidential system. The presidential system allows the citizens to directly choose a president without a need for parliament’s vote. Implementation of this system is related to the accomplishment of the task of an 18-member constitution review committee. Once the committee finishes its job, the Iraqi citizens should affirm it under a referendum.
This is not an easy task, however. Three Kurdish provinces can easily reject the move and thus block any change. This scenario is largely costly and time-taking due to the complexity of the referendum process and the need for change of the constitutional articles. It can fuel tensions among the political parties. That is what makes it unlikely.
Holding a referendum to pick a new PM based on al-Sadr’s roadmap
Another scenario is arranging a referendum to name a new PM. Muqtada al-Sadr, the leader of Saeroon— one of the largest parliamentary alliances, backed Abdul Mahdi’s resignation and insisted that a new PM should be picked by a referendum. This proposal violates the constitution. If the country wants to adopt it, it should change the constitution. Political parties hardly support such a plan.
Limbo in the politics
Another scenario that is possible in case of intensification of the tensions and confrontations in the politics in the coming days is limbo and state of uncertainty. The currency to this scenario is a considerable level of contrast in the approaches and views of the major political actors. Presently, it is hard to find a harmony of thought and approaches among even two political parties from the Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds. So, if the political factions conflict over a new PM, a multi-month impasse can engulf the country’s politics.