In Iraq, traditional parties covet activists


Baghdad (Iraq)

From our correspondent

In Iraq, traditional parties covet activists

Snuggled up in front of his very sweet coffee, Ihsan Al Shammeri stares in front of him, sullen. In Iraq, these are the last days to draw up the lists for the next elections, postponed until October, and negotiations are going well. But this activist of the popular protest movement that rocked Iraq between October 2019 and 2020 – killing almost 600 people – doesn’t care: “Several of them contacted me, but I refused: two big Shiite parties offered to create a new formation with other activists. They even offered money. “

When the traditional Iraqi parties began to approach the protagonists of the uprising last year, many were, like him, suspicious: “Under the pretext of giving a voice to the youth and taking into account the demands of the demonstrators, they seek to build phantom parties, which depend directly on this same corrupt hierarchy which has always managed Iraq. “

But for many others, who do not have his experience and his charisma, these proposals remain appetizing because since the end of the protests, a wave of threats, persecutions and assassinations fell on them. “They are so vulnerable”, explains Lahib Higel, Iraq researcher for Crisis Group. “But co-optation by political parties can have many faces, including silencing them while ensuring their protection. “

In Iraq, the entire political system is going through a crisis of legitimacy. Some parties have understood the need to better stick to the demographic evolution of the country, where 70% of the population is under 30, and to develop a more inclusive approach. Screwed in his chair, his dog snoring at his feet, Saad Al Muttalibi is an old man: a member of the Shiite Dawa party for seventeen years, until the start of the demonstrations in October 2019, he now says to himself “Independent”, and proudly describes the new political movement he is leading with a few dozen activists. “I am training them. We hope to win one or two seats in October ”, he explains, alternating cigarettes and puffs of a pipe.

“The young people came to see me after seeing me talking on television”, he assures. Saad Al Muttalibi admits to still being in regular contact with the former Prime Minister (from 2006 to 2014) Nouri Al Maliki, and even having discussed a political collaboration between them: “The last time I saw him was last week. He had asked me to meet the activists with whom I work: I organized the meeting. “

In his office on the first floor of a mosque in Sadr City, in the suburbs of Baghdad, Sheikh Ibrahim Al Jabari, disciple of the sulphurous Shiite leader Moqtada Al Sadr, is outraged. “It’s the other Shiite parties that go to the activists and turn them against us. We don’t need it ”, protests the one whose party won the previous elections. “After the elections? Yes, we could welcome into our ranks those of them who are independent ”, he concedes. First sympathizing with the demonstrators, his boss turned his jacket over a few months later and his militias attacked them on several occasions, in Nassiriya and Najaf in particular, killing dozens of people.

Conversely, the Shiite Al-Hikma movement, its ally in Parliament since the last legislative elections, has never hidden its interest in young people. “We have been in contact with activists since the start of 2020, and our lists have always consisted mainly of independents”, recognizes Fadi Al Shomeri. “And then it’s not a mistake to want to improve your image …” They too contacted Ihsan Al Shammeri. But to them too, he opposed an end of inadmissibility.

“These elections will not change anything, and all those who participate will be the losers”, assures the activist and analyst, with a shrug. All the strategies are running these days in Baghdad, but no one knows which will prove to be the winner.

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