Conflict and Fragility

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A scramble for legitimacy: Iraq’s political elites since the October 2019 protests

22 May 2024 - 10:18
Source: Reuters

Iraqi political elites exhibited a variety of responses to the 2019 October protests, the largest demonstrations in post-2003 Iraq. Muqtada al-Sadr, a cleric-turned politician and leader of the Sadrist movement, vacillated between attempting to co-opt and repressing the protests. Other Shi’a political elites portrayed the predominantly Shi’a protestors as foreign agents and encouraged violent repression. Yet others who urged reform and response went largely unheard. Iraq’s political system emerged largely unscathed from the protests, even though the threat of recurrence inspired the new government to undertake limited service-oriented reforms. However, traditional political elites continue to view reformists, including the politicians that emerged from the protest movement, as illegitimate usurpers of governing power they feel rightly belongs to them.

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