Will Iraq’s New Prime Minister Bring Change — Or More of the Same?

“After a year-long crisis in Iraq triggered by contested elections, Iraq finally has a government headed by Prime Minister Mohammed Shia’ al-Sudani. While this ends the political impasse, it’s unclear whether his new cabinet will bring about change or usher in more of the same. 

“Al-Sudani is backed by the Coordination Framework, an alliance of powerful pro-Iran Shi’a factions that holds 138 out of 329 seats in parliament. The Shi’a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s Sadrist movement that won a plurality of parliamentary seats in the October 2021 elections played no part in picking either the prime minister or the new president — a first since Iraq’s democratic transition, which does not bode well for a government that now effectively lacks legitimacy. 

“Given the longtime political wrangling and endemic political instability that has plagued their country, the Iraqi people are justifiably skeptical about this government’s ability to tackle the many problems facing Iraq. Many are also suspicious of al-Sudani’s close affiliation with former prime minister Nouri-Al Maliki, given the latter’s deeply sectarian and pro-Iran stance.

“Sadrists view al-Sudani as Maliki’s man and expect a vengeful premiership that will target their interests within the state. The new government will need to distance itself from al-Maliki and convince the public that it is above the fray. As a first gesture of goodwill, he has required that top tiers within ministries be selected from career professionals, as opposed to party loyalists. Whether or not this heralds a broader turn away from factionalism remains to be seen. …”

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