A brave election does not remedy Iraq's dysfunction



By a few indicators at least, Sunday's national elections in Iraq went fairly well. Although several dozen civilians were killed and many Iraqis stayed home out of fear of attacks on voting booths and disgust with their new, largely distrusted political class, the predicted surge of violence meant to scare away voters did not materialise. Unlike in the 2005 elections, calls for a boycott within the Sunni community did not overshadow the process.

In fact, reports indicate that turnout was strong, a testament to the resilience and courage of a population that has successively suffered the most brutal dictatorship in the Arab world, a traumatic occupation and civil war with sectarian overtones that tore apart its neighbourhoods and its social fabric. The gradual build-up of Iraq's security institutions also had something to do with the relative quiet: almost one million policemen and soldiers are now deployed in the streets, a number that suffocates the insurgency and ensures loyalty through patronage.

The prospects of a return to the sectarian violence that engulfed the country for nearly six years are dim. Grievances have not evaporated, but fatigue, the perverse effects of resistance and the sad homogenisation of the country's once-diverse districts make it improbable that any new, sustained insurgency can emerge. Many Iraqis certainly rejoice at the freedom to choose their representatives among more than 6,000 candidates, but in burgeoning democracies, the real test is not holding elections per se. By their very nature, electoral politics are colourful, engaging and exciting, but what matters more is the wrangling over the composition of the new government, and once this inglorious episode ends, its perceived legitimacy and performance. If anything, Iraq's recent history and the closest democratic experiment of relevance, Lebanon, suggest that meeting these objectives will be difficult.

Indeed, even if security has markedly improved, the past six months have shown how little Iraq's politics have matured and how weak its institutions remain. It took America's strong-arm tactics to keep the elections on track. Political reconciliation has not progressed; in fact, the elections became a pretext to exclude rather than include those previously opposed to the political process. Difficult decisions, such as resolving the status of Kirkuk, have been pushed back.

This is why many fear that the elections, instead of correcting these weaknesses, may simply exacerbate the existing dysfunction. Indeed, Iraq is entering a perilous phase. It must form a government while adapting to the drawdown of US troops, and many things can go awry. With decreasing American muscle and prodding, but concomitant increasing Iranian, Arab and Turkish involvement, the ability of Iraqis to decide their future will be severely tested.

For a start, Iraq will be applying a set of constitutional rules and procedures obscure enough to be manipulated. Once the results have been certified (potentially a highly contentious process), the new parliament must elect a speaker, then a president and later a prime minister who must form a government. In theory, the next prime minister should come from the electoral slate that won the most seats in parliament, on the condition that he is able to form a government coalition. If he fails to do so within 30 days, the president can designate another prime minister. Given that it took five months for the incumbent cabinet to be formed after the 2005 elections, it is safe to predict a long and tumultuous transitional phase this time as well.

The formal requirement of a supermajority to form a government - a well-meaning way to guarantee cross-sectarian co-operation that actually enshrined confessionalism - is now defunct, opening the way for simple majority rule. Given that none of the three leading coalitions (the incumbent prime minister Nouri al Maliki's State of Law, Iyad Allawi's relatively secular Iraqiyyah list, and the Iraqi National Alliance [INA], the coalition of Shia parties supported by Iran) is expected to win the majority of the seats, forming cross-party alliances will be indispensable. But the ongoing clash of egos, loyalties and agendas can only intensify in the process.

Some Iraqis hope that the government can make up in performance what it loses in inclusiveness. That would require that the ruling parties uphold constitutional and procedural rules, respect the rights of the minority factions, and refrain from grabbing power, as Mr al Maliki has recently been accused. This is a tall order for a political class that lacks vision and maturity. In practice, however, even the most sectarian Shia prime minister would need the pretence of cross-confessional co-operation: excluding the Kurdish bloc, for instance, would threaten the country's very unity. This is why possible political combinations are infinite. A victorious Mr al Maliki might decide to appeal to the INA and form a strong Shia government, but would lose his new nationalistic credentials in the process. Or he could reach out to more secular elements and hope that his Shia base follows him. Mr Allawi hopes that al Maliki-INA negotiations will fail, or that alliances will fracture, so he can emerge as the white knight.

It is obvious that there are ways for losers or disgruntled parties to undermine the whole process. For instance, if the INA performs poorly, it could use its influence over the infamous Accountability and Justice Committee (also known as the de-Ba'athification committee) to interfere in the process and question the credentials of newly elected MPs. The politicking that comes with back room deals and dividing portfolios will undoubtedly frustrate the many voters who went to the polls on Sunday. This, however, is the look of imperfect democracy.

@Email:ehokayem@thenational.ae

Sweet Tooth

Creator: Jim Mickle
Starring: Christian Convery, Nonso Anozie, Adeel Akhtar, Stefania LaVie Owen
Rating: 2.5/5

RACE RESULTS

1. Valtteri Bottas (FIN/Mercedes) 1hr 21min 48.527sec
2. Sebastian Vettel (GER/Ferrari) at 0.658sec
3. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS/Red Bull) 6.012
4. Lewis Hamilton (GBR/Mercedes) 7.430
5. Kimi Räikkönen (FIN/Ferrari) 20.370
6. Romain Grosjean (FRA/Haas) 1:13.160
7. Sergio Pérez (MEX/Force India) 1 lap
8. Esteban Ocon (FRA/Force India) 1 lap
9. Felipe Massa (BRA/Williams) 1 lap
10. Lance Stroll (CAN/Williams) 1 lap
11. Jolyon Palmer (GBR/Renault) 1 lap
12. Stoffel Vandoorne (BEL/McLaren) 1 lap
13. Nico Hülkenberg (GER/Renault) 1 lap
14. Pascal Wehrlein (GER/Sauber) 1 lap
15. Marcus Ericsson (SWE/Sauber) 2 laps
16. Daniil Kvyat (RUS/Toro Rosso) 3 laps

The biog

Favourite food: Fish and seafood

Favourite hobby: Socialising with friends

Favourite quote: You only get out what you put in!

Favourite country to visit: Italy

Favourite film: Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

Family: We all have one!

The biog

Name: Shamsa Hassan Safar

Nationality: Emirati

Education: Degree in emergency medical services at Higher Colleges of Technology

Favourite book: Between two hearts- Arabic novels

Favourite music: Mohammed Abdu and modern Arabic songs

Favourite way to spend time off: Family visits and spending time with friends

The specs

Engine: 2.3-litre 4cyl turbo
Power: 299hp at 5,500rpm
Torque: 420Nm at 2,750rpm
Transmission: 10-speed auto
Fuel consumption: 12.4L/100km
On sale: Now
Price: From Dh157,395 (XLS); Dh199,395 (Limited)

Our legal advisor

Ahmad El Sayed is Senior Associate at Charles Russell Speechlys, a law firm headquartered in London with offices in the UK, Europe, the Middle East and Hong Kong.

Experience: Commercial litigator who has assisted clients with overseas judgments before UAE courts. His specialties are cases related to banking, real estate, shareholder disputes, company liquidations and criminal matters as well as employment related litigation. 

Education: Sagesse University, Beirut, Lebanon, in 2005.

Company profile

Name: Elggo
Started: August 2022
Founders: Luma Makari and Mirna Mneimneh
Based: Dubai, UAE
Sector: Education technology / health technology
Size: Four employees
Investment stage: Pre-seed

SPECS

Engine: 4-litre V8 twin-turbo
Power: 630hp
Torque: 850Nm
Transmission: 8-speed Tiptronic automatic
Price: From Dh599,000
On sale: Now

MATCH INFO

Tottenham Hotspur 3 (Son 1', Kane 8' & 16') West Ham United 3 (Balbuena 82', Sanchez og 85', Lanzini 90'+4)

Man of the match Harry Kane

The past Palme d'Or winners

2018 Shoplifters, Hirokazu Kore-eda

2017 The Square, Ruben Ostlund

2016 I, Daniel Blake, Ken Loach

2015 DheepanJacques Audiard

2014 Winter Sleep (Kış Uykusu), Nuri Bilge Ceylan

2013 Blue is the Warmest Colour (La Vie d'Adèle: Chapitres 1 et 2), Abdellatif Kechiche, Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux

2012 Amour, Michael Haneke

2011 The Tree of LifeTerrence Malick

2010 Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Lung Bunmi Raluek Chat), Apichatpong Weerasethakul

2009 The White Ribbon (Eine deutsche Kindergeschichte), Michael Haneke

2008 The Class (Entre les murs), Laurent Cantet

The Specs

Engine: 1.6-litre 4-cylinder petrol
Power: 118hp
Torque: 149Nm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Price: From Dh61,500
On sale: Now

COMPANY PROFILE

Company: Eco Way
Started: December 2023
Founder: Ivan Kroshnyi
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: Electric vehicles
Investors: Bootstrapped with undisclosed funding. Looking to raise funds from outside

The specs

Engine: Dual synchronous electric motors
Power: 660hp
Torque: 1,100Nm
Transmission: Single-speed automatic
Touring range: 488km-560km
Price: From Dh850,000 (estimate)
On sale: October

Abu Dhabi traffic facts

Drivers in Abu Dhabi spend 10 per cent longer in congested conditions than they would on a free-flowing road

The highest volume of traffic on the roads is found between 7am and 8am on a Sunday.

Travelling before 7am on a Sunday could save up to four hours per year on a 30-minute commute.

The day was the least congestion in Abu Dhabi in 2019 was Tuesday, August 13.

The highest levels of traffic were found on Sunday, November 10.

Drivers in Abu Dhabi lost 41 hours spent in traffic jams in rush hour during 2019

 

KEY DATES IN AMAZON'S HISTORY

July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to Amazon.com, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone

Tips for job-seekers
  • Do not submit your application through the Easy Apply button on LinkedIn. Employers receive between 600 and 800 replies for each job advert on the platform. If you are the right fit for a job, connect to a relevant person in the company on LinkedIn and send them a direct message.
  • Make sure you are an exact fit for the job advertised. If you are an HR manager with five years’ experience in retail and the job requires a similar candidate with five years’ experience in consumer, you should apply. But if you have no experience in HR, do not apply for the job.

David Mackenzie, founder of recruitment agency Mackenzie Jones Middle East

If you go

The flights
There are various ways of getting to the southern Serengeti in Tanzania from the UAE. The exact route and airstrip depends on your overall trip itinerary and which camp you’re staying at. 
Flydubai flies direct from Dubai to Kilimanjaro International Airport from Dh1,350 return, including taxes; this can be followed by a short flight from Kilimanjaro to the Serengeti with Coastal Aviation from about US$700 (Dh2,500) return, including taxes. Kenya Airways, Emirates and Etihad offer flights via Nairobi or Dar es Salaam.   

AIR

Director: Ben Affleck

Stars: Matt Damon, Jason Bateman, Ben Affleck, Viola Davis

Rating: 4/5

Inside Out 2

Director: Kelsey Mann

Starring: Amy Poehler, Maya Hawke, Ayo Edebiri

Rating: 4.5/5

Race card

6pm: Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 – Group 1 (PA) $50,000 (Dirt) 1,600m
6.35pm: Dubai Racing Club Classic – Handicap (TB) $100,000 (D) 2,410m
7.10pm: Dubawi Stakes – Group 3 (TB) $150,000 (D) 1,200m
7.45pm: Jumeirah Classic Trial – Conditions (TB) $150,000 (Turf) 1,400m
8.20pm: Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 – Group 2 (TB) $250,000 (D) 1,600m
8.55pm: Al Fahidi Fort – Group 2 (TB) $180,000 (T) 1,400m
9.30pm: Ertijaal Dubai Dash – Listed (TB) $100,000 (T) 1,000m

Company profile

Name: Purpl

Co-founders: Karl Naim, Wissam Ghorra, Jean-Marie Khoueir

Based: Hub71 in Abu Dhabi and Beirut

Started: 2021

Number of employees: 12

Sector: FinTech

Funding: $2 million

Film: Raid
Dir: Rajkumar Gupta
Starring: Ajay Devgn, Ileana D'cruz and Saurabh Shukla

Verdict:  Three stars 

Sarfira

Director: Sudha Kongara Prasad

Starring: Akshay Kumar, Radhika Madan, Paresh Rawal

Rating: 2/5

Company profile

Company name: Fasset
Started: 2019
Founders: Mohammad Raafi Hossain, Daniel Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech
Initial investment: $2.45 million
Current number of staff: 86
Investment stage: Pre-series B
Investors: Investcorp, Liberty City Ventures, Fatima Gobi Ventures, Primal Capital, Wealthwell Ventures, FHS Capital, VN2 Capital, local family offices

The schedule

December 5 - 23: Shooting competition, Al Dhafra Shooting Club

December 9 - 24: Handicrafts competition, from 4pm until 10pm, Heritage Souq

December 11 - 20: Dates competition, from 4pm

December 12 - 20: Sour milk competition

December 13: Falcon beauty competition

December 14 and 20: Saluki races

December 15: Arabian horse races, from 4pm

December 16 - 19: Falconry competition

December 18: Camel milk competition, from 7.30 - 9.30 am

December 20 and 21: Sheep beauty competition, from 10am

December 22: The best herd of 30 camels

The Roundup : No Way Out

Director: Lee Sang-yong
Stars: Don Lee, Lee Jun-hyuk, Munetaka Aoki
Rating: 3/5


Latest
Most Read
Top Videos

The UAE Today

The latest news and analysis from the Emirates

      By signing up, I agree to The National's privacy policy
      The UAE Today