Iraq’s protest movement seeks to find voice in parliament

Iraqi demonstrators wave national flags during mass anti-government demonstrations in the capital Baghdad, on October 30, 2019. (AFP photo)

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — For the first time in Iraq, a new breed of representatives is entering parliament, born from a civil society movement fed up with the corruption that has long tarnished politics.

Among the newcomers is pharmacist Alaa al-Rikabi, 47, whose party Imtidad (Extension) emerged in the aftermath of the October 2019 protest movement against the entrenched political elite.

Imtidad positions itself as the “opposition” to governments that have emerged through an informal ethno-sectarian quota system that has been in place since the U.S.-led invasion of 2003, Rikabi told AFP.

Despite campaigning with extremely limited finances, the party secured nine of the 329 seats in the Iraqi Council of Representatives in the October 10 election, according to preliminary results.

“I’m aware that our size in parliament will not allow us a lot of leeway” to push a political agenda, Ribaki said, stressing that his party instead aims to perform a watchdog role.

“We will not participate in any government set up on the basis of quotas, so that we will be able to hold leaders to account,” Rikabi said in his home in Nasiriyah, a flashpoint of protests in Iraq’s mainly Shiite south.

Overall, big political blocs retained their dominance in the election, which was marked by a record abstention rate.

The biggest winner was the Sadrist movement, led by firebrand Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr. It took 70 seats, according to the results that are expected to be finalized within a few weeks.

(Esta Media Network/AFP)

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