Since the start of October, large-scale protests have rocked Iraq, killing more than a hundred people and wounding thousands. Iraqis are frustrated with high unemployment, the dismal state of Iraq’s essential infrastructure, and the long-standing corruption seen as the fundamental cause for the deterioration of country’s economy. These protests testify to the inability of Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi’s government to provide serious reform to these challenges.
As the first Prime Minister following the defeat of the so-called Islamic State, Abdul-Mahdi was welcomed with a wave of optimism, built on the promise he would tackle corruption, increase economic investment, and strengthen infrastructure and essential services. The two dominant electoral blocs that keep in him power, Binaa and Islah, have kept Abdul-Mahdi from pursuing this much-needed reform.
Both blocs have allowed Iraq’s system of political patronage to persist, prolonging corruption and leading to further deterioration of essential services. Consequently, Abdul-Mahdi is trapped between the demands of these two factions, restricting any meaningful reform efforts.
Abdul-Mahdi’s appointment as Prime Minister in 2018 was the surprise result of a compromise between Binaa and Islah, who agreed to form a governing coalition after winning the most seats. From the outset, the merger of the two blocs was a fascinating development, given their conflicting views.