Only a presidential system can satisfy Iraqi protesters

ALI ABO REZEG
Published 16.11.2019 00:49

For weeks, Iraqi youth have taken to the streets to protest their country's deteriorating situation on the economic, political and social levels.

According to the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights, the second wave of protests, which erupted on Oct. 25, led to the deaths of 270 civilians with more than 12,500 injured.

On the economic side, Iraqis have been protesting high levels of corruption that have derailed the country's economy and put it on the brink of collapse, with Transparency International ranking Iraq as the 12th-most corrupt country in the world. Iraqi youth, who live in an oil-rich country, suffer from high unemployment rates, with more than 30% of them feeling hopeless and with no job opportunities following graduation. Iraqi official figures showed that Iraq had lost $300 billion since the U.S. invasion of the country in 2003.

On the social level, organized crime such as murder, kidnapping and theft has increased markedly, hitting the highest numbers in the country's history. The World Crime Index has ranked Iraq among the countries with a high rate of crime in 2019, the index said in its annual report: "A number of Arab countries, mostly Egypt, topped the list with the highest rate of crimes, followed by Syria and Iraq which were classified as the most dangerous countries in the world." That was in terms of the crimes of murder, torture, rape of children and theft along with family crimes and suicide.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) attributed that to declining basic education in Iraq. It said: At the time the country includes around 14,658 schools, 9,000 of which are damaged and more than 800 of which are made of mud, affirming that the country is in dire need for at least 11,000 new schools in order to recover its educational system.

The political conditions in the country much worse than what we have mentioned above. It seems that the Iraqi political system was designed to weaken the country's executive authority more than to bring required stability and prosperity. The federal democracy in the war-torn country is totally based on preferential policies that have been allocated to serve the country's main ethnicities and sects.

This has contributed to worsening conditions in already wrecked political parties and making them compete on sectarian and partisan agendas at the expense of genuine national interests. A presidential system, though, will bring a strong Iraq back and may foster the Iraqi nationals to be engaged again in the political process by establishing political parties on a national and nonsectarian basis.

Confidently, the Iraqi political elite will reject this demand as it threatens their narrow interests and poses a menace for them and their would-be heredity system of power that rewards their family members.

Thus, the names who have been governing Iraq are almost the same since the U.S. invasion with the exception of Nuri al-Malki, who was overthrown by protests by the Iraqi youth against his corrupt government in 2014. However, the Iraqi people found that the crisis was much deeper and took to the streets again in Basra at the end of last year and in the past few weeks this year.

The presidential system could be a good way to satisfy Iraqi protesters as snap elections will bring nothing but the same faces to govern Iraq with the infamous system of the sectarian quota.

The way out of this crisis could be achieved only when the current president calls for a national conference to discuss the development of the current political system with the presidential system as the best alternative. Only this will appease protesters who believe that no government can uproot the corruption in the Iraqi deep state; only a strong president can do so.

* Ph.D. student in Yıldırım Beyazıt University's Department of International Relations

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