Is Abadi’s revolution a storm in a teacup?

The Iraqi people have been drained by high-level corruption and the government’s mismanagement of the country

Abdulrahman al-Rashed
Abdulrahman al-Rashed
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Those who went to meet Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi when he first took office, were surprised by checkpoint guards asking them which prime minister they were going to meet? Nouri al-Maliki was refusing to leave and his influence was still prevailing!

September marks Abadi’s anniversary as prime minister, although one year of his premiership passed as if he was never in power. Finally, Abadi has now announced that he refuses to stay in the box he was put in, deciding to change the structure of governance that limited his duties to being just another government employee “who can’t do anything.”

He has announced the dismissal of his MPs and other state leaders, except for the president and the parliament speaker. He has removed several governmental administrations and thousands of bodyguards assigned to officials and MPs. He has pledged not to allow the appointment of ministers, advisers and director-generals based on partisanship and religion. He promised to form a professional committee that will be in charge of selecting candidates according to standards of efficiency and integrity.

In theory, it seems that Abadi has led a coup from inside the palace against the regime he inherited from his predecessor Nouri al-Maliki, but it may just all be a storm in a teacup.

What urged Abadi to take this decision was the outrage of the Iraqis who did not scream for help when it came to ISIS or Shiite militias this time, but from the heatwave hitting Iraq as most cities suffered from electricity blackouts due to weak government services.

The Iraqi people have been drained by high-level corruption and the government’s mismanagement of the country. It seems that Abadi has seized this opportunity to pounce against the cause of his powerlessness and decided to revolt alongside the insurgents. We can only hope that he dismisses those who are taking advantage of government services, and starts to fulfill the promises he vowed to achieve.

The Iraqi people have been drained by high-level corruption and the government’s mismanagement of the country

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

This explains his decision to abolish his MPs’ positions and remove their guards, which has nothing to do with, say, solving the country’s electricity problem. The prime minister is in distress since the first day he took the oath of premiership during a dramatic operation where his predecessor Maliki was ousted almost by force. Iraqis have resorted to all world powers, including Iran and the United States, to overthrow him.

Abadi’s problem, which is also a general problem for governance in Iraq, has been people like Maliki and parties heads who decided to share governance with him. Both internal and external forces discovered early on that Abadi is a prime minister with diminished prerogatives. This is due to the fact that Maliki had destroyed state institutions by encouraging corruption in order to provide his men with absolute powers. He was dictator to the extent that he corrupted the judiciary and security apparatuses until he ruined the dream of a better Iraq with solid state institutions. The crimes committed by his government are appalling; he trumped up charges against his opponents, took advantage of security services and looted public money in horrendous ways. Moreover, he completely ignored the constitution and shunned the parliament by not asking for its consent or informing it of the government’s expenses until the end of his term when he sent off six years of budgets all at once in an unprecedented move in the history of governance.

Then, Abadi came to power, becoming in charge of a worn-out regime, looted funds, dreadful sectarianism and leaders whose prerogatives know no bounds. He couldn’t even fix the country’s electricity problems.

He has spent half of his term unable to accomplish anything. This is why people took to the streets crying because they are living in an Iraq suffering from a lack of good governance since the 1970s.

Abadi may not succeed despite his courage to announce this positive coup, which relied on the support of a religious authority once the complaints of citizens became loud and dangerous enough to threaten the entire regime. He can only succeed once he proves that Maliki and his men have been excluded from security apparatuses, the army, the judiciary, the central bank and other state institutions, and when he and his own men start to respect the law. Otherwise, he will not be able to achieve anything in the remainder of his term.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on August 15, 2015.


Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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