Thursday, June 24, 2010

Is Iraq Falling Back Into Authoritarianism?

By: Ali Rawaf
     One sad fact about new democracies is that they might turn back into authoritarian regimes that ruled the country before those democracies emerged. Iraq's democracy might be one of those. Iraq is on the brink of falling back into an authoritarian regime, under Maliki's Dawa party.

We have witnessed Maliki's strong grip on his seat as Prime Minister. Though his term has constitutionally expired, Maliki and his cabinet still have full control of all three powers; executive, legislative, and judicial. The cabinet has signed contracts, appointed ambassadors, passed laws, all while the Parliament is not really in session. Maliki's powers are all unchecked. Maliki seems to have also manipulated Iraq's supreme court to rule in his favor several times. Furthermore, Maliki has been trying every way possible to somehow "legitimize" his bloc, which came in second in the elections, to form the next government. Maliki's bloc, State Of Law has formed an alliance with the National Alliance, the radical Shiite bloc. The alliance, was named the National Alliance hours before the first session of Parliament so al-Iraqyiah wouldn't enter the first session as the biggest bloc. Maliki's alliance with the  radical Shiite bloc had a bumpy start and remains in gridlock over which candidate they want for the Prime Minister post. The National Alliance remains under no leadership.

Recently, Iraqis marched down the streets protesting the lack of basic services such as drinking water and electricity. The protests, after taking place in five provinces, resulted in the resignation of the Minister of Electricity. The protests were seen by Maliki's State of Law as a movement to reduce Malki's popularity. Iraqi news networks reported today that Maliki  ordered to tighten security measures in Basra, the province where the protests started. The security forces have more presence in the province and their purpose is to "discourage" anymore protests. Deterring the protests doesn't remind me of anything but of Iraq's old days under Saddam Hussein.

Today, al-Arabiya news channel was raided be security forces from the Ministry of Interior. The channel staff was ordered to evacuate their office because of "threats that their office will be attacked." The staff was instructed to leave behind all their equipment and belongings in the office before the Ministry of Interior shut down their office. al-Arabiya has been known for its support of Ayad Allawi, the head of the winning Iraqyiah bloc and Maliki's rival for the Prime Minister post. al-Arabyia had interviewed Allawi a few days ago.

With one sign after the other, Iraqis are beginning to lose hope in Iraq's democracy. Maliki and his cronies have managed to take over all aspects of governance in Iraq. Their insistence on remaining in power has brought chaos back to the country and put the political process at stalemate. Almost four months after the elections, Malki still shows no signs of stepping down from his expired post and to transfer power peacefully. The change for which Iraqis voted is farther than it seemed on the night of the elections.

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