Iraq's prime minister says weapons are not the solution to state’s problems

Mustafa Al Kadhimi believes early elections will create a change for the better

Prime Minister of Iraq Mustafa al-Kadhimi speaks during a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (not in image) at the Chancellery in Berlin on October 20, 2020. (Photo by STEFANIE LOOS / various sources / AFP)
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Weapons in Iraq are not the solution to the crises the country is facing, Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi said as he encouraged citizens to participate in the upcoming elections to create a change for the better.

Iraq faces serious issues, from a dilapidated healthcare system, corruption and war-battered economy, to the task of reining in armed groups that operate outside the state's authority.

The country has witnessed dozens of assassinations and targeted killings of activists and reporters in recent months by unknown gunmen, the latest was Ihab Al Wazni who was murdered last month in the southern city of Karbala.

"There is anarchy in Iraq’s planning system that has caused the accumulation of a large number of problems. The use of weapons is not the solution, rather elections and a large voter turnout is needed to change for the better,” Mr Al Kadhimi said during a visit to the southern governorate of Wasit.

Iraq is scheduled to hold early elections on October 10, a response to a key demand by anti-government protesters since late 2019.

“The repercussions of the political situation have led to the problems we are experiencing today, and the change of reality will take place with the wide participation in the elections,” the prime minister said.

Since taking office last May, Mr Al Kadhimi vowed to meet the demands of protesters by holding early elections on June 6, 2021, nearly a year ahead of schedule.

These were later postponed to October 10.

The delay was the result of technical requirements, Mr Al Kadhimi said in January in a proposal submitted to the Cabinet to ensure a transparent electoral process.

He did not provide details on what the issues were.

The May 2018 federal elections featured a low turnout and were mired in allegations of voter fraud and corruption.

More than 25 million Iraqis are eligible to vote in the upcoming ballot, although those living abroad will be excluded from casting their ballots, Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission said in April.

The prime minister embarked on a two-day visit to the southern governorate of Wasit to empower Iraq's agriculture sector that was severely depleted by years of war and employment opportunities in the south.

Mr Al Kadhimi said that "complete dependency on oil has been turned into an attraction for corruption, and we must rely on real alternatives, the most important of which is agriculture".

"We must work together and make every effort to return Iraq to its agricultural position in the region,” he said.

Iraq's agriculture sector cannot succeed without developing its industries, he said, "it requires serious foreign and local investments that the government must work on to attain".