PM Al Sudani has an approval rate of 51%, the highest of any Iraqi official…

Iraq’s ruling coalition may call for early elections

A poll by the nongovernmental Iraq Statistics Organization found Prime Minister Mohammed Shia’ Al Sudani to have an approval rate of 51%, the highest of any Iraqi official.

MARCH 10, 2024 14:20

 US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Al Sudani in Munich, Germany, on February 18 2023. (photo credit: PUBLIC DOMAIN)

Iraq’s ruling coalition plans to call for early elections in an attempt to overthrow Prime Minister Mohammed Shia’ Al Sudani.

Al Sudani belongs to the Coordination Framework, an alliance of Shiite parties loyal to Iran. But after assuming the premiership, Al Sudani changed his approach toward the parties and came to disagree with many of their political positions.

A leader in the Islamic Dawa Party, which Al Sudani led until stepping down in 2019, told The Media Line that Coordination Framework parties have been meeting for about five months and plan to call for elections in 2024 or early 2025.

“The plan is to attack the prime minister, belittle his achievements, bring him down popularly, and create more political and economic problems, after which the Iraqi street will go out in demonstrations demanding the overthrow of the government, and then call for early elections, and not nominate Al Sudani again, or grant him any position,” the source, who asked to remain anonymous, said.

The source noted that two previous Iraqi prime ministers had lost their positions after the Iraqi public turned against them.

 Syria's President Bashar al-Assad greets Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani in Damascus, Syria July 16, 2023. (credit: SANA/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)Party fears creation of new political party

“The party fears that Al Sudani may announce the formation of a new political party or alliance, run in the upcoming elections, and become the ruling political majority in Iraq,” the source added.

The dispute between the Coordination Framework and Al Sudani relates to the prime minister’s approval of US Federal Reserve policies to prevent currency smuggling. These measures reduced the circulation of US dollars in Iraq and increased the price of the dollar.

Al Sudani also implemented several policies that have boosted his popularity. He increased government salaries and wages for retirees, launched major development projects in the capital and several Iraqi governorates, and announced plans to improve infrastructure and expand the nation’s road network.

According to official statistics, Al Sudani also significantly reduced unemployment. In addition, he passed a social security law for workers in the private sector and announced a plan to build 1,000 schools and more than a million residential units.

Since mid-2023, at least 10 countries, including some in the Gulf Cooperation Council, have announced new investments in Iraq. The exchange rate of the dollar in the parallel market has also stabilized since November 2023.

A September 2023 opinion poll by the Government Advisory Board found that Al Sudani enjoys a 78% approval rate. Another poll by the nongovernmental Iraq Statistics Organization found him to have an approval rate of 51%, the highest of any Iraqi official.

Al Sudani has spurned many political allies and opponents. He did not support former Speaker of Parliament Mohamed al-Halbousi and worked for his removal. He also removed most of the leaders of the Popular Mobilization Forces—a group of Iranian-backed militias—from government positions.

The Iraqi government is currently weighing the question of changing the currency so that the official cost of a US dollar will be 1.32 Iraqi dinars instead of 1,320 dinars. Implementing such a decision is likely to significantly increase Al Sudani’s popularity.

Abbas al-Musawi, adviser to the former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, said in statements to Iraqi media that Al Sudani’s achievements are achievements “for everyone,” while also saying that Al Sudani will not be reelected as prime minister.

“We are not afraid of Al Sudani. We have our audience, and it is a stable audience,” al-Musawi said.

Al Sudani has faced heavy criticism on Iraqi television

Jaafar Al-Khudairi, a member of the National Wisdom Movement, one of the Shiite parties within the ruling Coordination Framework, told The Media Line, “The Dawa Party is trying to state that only its cadres are capable of running the state, but this is not true.”

He said that the parliament is discussing a new law regarding elections and that new elections might be called after that law’s passage.

Karar Sahib, director of the Iraqi Media Observatory, told The Media Line that Al Sudani has faced constant criticism on Iraqi television.

“There are channels affiliated with the Shiite religious parties, which were the most offensive, as they only showed the negative aspects of the decisions, and tried to exaggerate them,” he said.

He said that consistencies across different channels suggest that there may be a single writer behind the criticism.

Sahib defended Al Sudani’s achievements. “Iraq is now making an unprecedented renaissance,” he said. “It is true that the situation is still below ambition, but it is much better than before.”

Muhammad Al-Bouflah, a former professor of political science at the University of Baghdad, told The Media Line that the current political climate is a result of Al Sudani’s attempt to fracture the coalition.

He also said that the Coordination Framework will succeed in holding early elections only if Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr comes out in favor of the plan.

“I do not think that Muqtada al-Sadr will return to trusting the Coordination Framework after they removed him from the political process, and therefore the prime minister will continue to complete his term as president,” he said.

Former Member of Parliament Shaiban Al-Kilani told The Media Line that the disputes have to do with the different parties’ attempts to vie for power.

“The disputes are only over shares of the cake,” he said, “and are not disputes over the popularity of the current prime minister.”

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