November 04, 2022

Climate of Opportunity: Iraq’s New Government as Regional Conciliator

Iraq finally has a new government. A little over a year since the parliamentary election and amid ongoing instability and violence, Mohammed al-Sudani – the preferred choice of the largest parliamentary bloc, the Shia Coordination Framework – was sworn in as prime minister last month, alongside 21 of 23 cabinet ministers. Sudani’s agenda centres on fighting corruption, creating economic opportunities, and improving public services. However, given his party’s near total dependence on larger coalition partners, the business of governing will not be straightforward. European policymakers should therefore manage their expectations of how much Iraq’s new government can achieve.

The political situation in Iraq is internally and externally fragile, and built on tenuous political alliances.

Sudani’s al-Furatain party won only three seats in Iraq’s 329-seat parliament, one of which was his own. But, since prime ministers and members of cabinet are not permitted to hold parliamentary seats, he will relinquish this place. In total, the Coordination Framework controls 138 parliamentary seats. Sudani is therefore highly dependent on his larger coalition partners in this fragile consensus government – even if having a small party in parliament and winning his own seat bestows a credibility on Sudani that his two predecessors lacked. Moreover, he will also have to lead a cabinet that he had minimal input in choosing. Since 2003, the allocation of government roles has taken place under an informal power-sharing system involving Shia, Sunni, and Kurdish parties. This results in political infighting for control of ministries, highlighting the degree to which securing networks of patronage – rather than the implementation of competing visions of governance – remains the key driver of Iraq’s power politics.

Read the full story from the European Council on Foreign Relations.

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