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Iraq: UN envoy urges politicians to end stalemate

May 18, 2022

In a UN Security Council briefing, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert said the streets in Iraq could "boil over" if political leaders were unable to end a political stalemate that has gripped the country for over seven months.

Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert
Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, the UN special envoy for Iraq, warned politicians that "the streets are about to boil over"Image: Hadi Mizban/AP Photo/picture alliance

The United Nations envoy to Iraq on Tuesday urged the country’s leaders to end a political deadlock that has kept the parliament from forming a new government for over seven months, warning that the delay could spark civil unrest.

"The streets are about to boil over in Iraq," Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert said after addressing the UN Security Council.

"We cannot afford to go back to a situation that we observed in October 2019," Hennis-Plasschaert said, in reference to when deadly street protests rocked the country.

At the time, young Iraqis had launched mass demonstrations to protest against the political elite, who they blamed for widespread corruption and political ineptitude. Authorities cracked down on protesters violently, which plunged the country into a renewed state of instability soon after the war against the Islamic State extremist group.

Delay in forming government

Hennis-Plasschaert warned that "notorious aspects of Iraqi political life are repeating themselves in a seemingly incessant loop of zero-sum politics."

More than seven months after parliamentary elections, she said, "multiple deadlines for the formation of a government have been missed."

Iraqi institutions remain at a standstill over legislators’ inability to elect a president, who in turn selects the largest block in parliament to form a government. During this period, outgoing President, Barham Saleh and Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi have been taking care of the day-to-day governance.

In late March, Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his political bloc, which won the most seats, said they would step back for 40 days to give his Iran-backed rivals a chance to form the next government. However, there is still no agreement.

Political stalemate hurting the public

Hennis-Plasschaert said Iraq's political leaders should not hide behind the argument that no government has been formed, which "distracts from what is at stake," she said.

The UN envoy said that as armed groups "fire rockets with apparent freedom and impunity" and ordinary citizens suffer, "simmering public anger can boil over at any moment."

"A sincere, collective and urgent will to resolve political differences must now prevail for the country to move forward and to meet the needs of its citizens," Hennis-Plasschaert said.

see/kb (AP, AFP)