Zaid al-Ali

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Tunisian President Kais Saied delivers a speech during his visit to Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, on Sept. 20. (Slim Abid/Tunisian presidency/AP)

On Sept. 22, Tunisia’s President Kais Saied issued Decision 117 — this effectively establishes a new constitutional order in which the president has granted himself extraordinary power, far in excess of anything Tunisia has experienced in its modern history. Decision 117 places itself above the existing constitutional order and essentially abolishes the entire system of government laid out in Tunisia’s 2014 constitution.

Decision 117 suspends much of the constitution adopted following the 2011 popular uprising against decades of dictatorial rule. This constitution was supposed to usher in a new form of democratic rule reducing the powers of the presidency, with parliament playing a more important role in governing the country.…  Seguir leyendo »

Months of massive protests led to the presidents of both Algeria and Sudan being forced from office — and citizens from both countries are demanding radical change, including constitutional reform. Government and military officials in both countries have promised changes. But what are the prospects for meaningful reform?

In many democracies, constitutions have a number of purposes, including establishing the relationship between the individual and the state and the rules for how key state institutions should interact with each other. Constitutions in the Arab region function differently, in that their main focus is organizing the relationship between institutions.

Arab constitutions therefore dedicate most of their attention to issues such as who is responsible for forming governments, in what circumstances parliament can be dissolved, who exercises oversight over security institutions, and other more detailed rules such as candidacy requirements for elections, among many others.…  Seguir leyendo »

U.N. Special Representative for Libya Ghassan Salame indicated in a statement to the Security Council that a national conference should be convened at the start of 2019 to “create a space for Libyans to crystallize their vision for the transition and no longer be ignored by their politicians.” This follows a conference in Palermo, Italy, that brought together international partners and Libyan stakeholders to discuss the situation.

Salame’s framing suggests that the conference will seek to impose a new path, regardless of what existing institutions might want. In other words, Libya’s transition plan, established in 2012, is being rebooted following a painful lack of progress on a number of fronts.…  Seguir leyendo »

An Iraqi woman prepares to cast her vote in the country’s parliamentary elections in Baghdad on Saturday. (Khalid Mohammed/AP)

Preliminary results for Iraq’s recent round of elections are in, and keeping with previous years, there are many surprises. Contradicting most polling data and analysts’ predictions, incumbent Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s alliance came in third, after Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s alliance with the Iraqi Communist Party and the Fatah Alliance led by Hadi al-Amiri, a paramilitary leader close to Iran.

Dissecting these results, we can see how voters are increasingly disillusioned with Iraq’s dysfunctional politics and the status quo. However, the elections also illuminate the flaws in the electoral system and the unwieldy government formation process. Without significant modifications to these institutions, there is little reason to expect any major changes in the coming period.…  Seguir leyendo »

Smoke rises while Iraqi security forces use bombs as Kurdish security forces withdraw from a checkpoint on the outskirts of Irbil, Iraq, on Oct. 20. (Khalid Mohammed/Associated Press)

The day before a Sept. 25 independence referendum, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) published a 30-page report arguing that Iraq is a “voluntary union” in which Kurdistan has “retained its sovereign status.” The report also listed a large number of constitutional violations by the Iraqi government, including the failure to resolve the status of disputed territories by the agreed deadline, which expired 10 years ago.

The report argues that the “voluntary union” is therefore no longer valid, entitling Kurdistan to organize an independence referendum in the territory that it controlled in September 2017, including the city of Kirkuk. The referendum prompted a swift Iraqi, regional, and international response, driving Kurdish forces out of the disputed territories and of what remained of the Kurdistan region’s political institutions.…  Seguir leyendo »

A portrait of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s Shiite spiritual leader. His actions could present a real challenge to Iranian domination. Credit Haidar Hamdani/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Mosul is back in the Iraqi government’s hands and the war against the Islamic State seems to finally be approaching its end. This is the good news. But one of the byproducts of the campaign is that Iran’s reach now extends even deeper throughout Iraq and seems unlikely to go away any time soon.

A crucial fighting force in the battle for Mosul and other areas liberated from the Islamic State was provided by paramilitary groups that receive supplies and support from Iran, and cross the Iran-Iraq border at will. These were sanctioned by the Iraqi government in November 2016 and made part of the Popular Mobilization Forces, a coalition of paramilitary groups, some of which have multiple loyalties.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Only Way to Solve Iraq’s Political Crisis

With the Islamic State still in control of large parts of the country and oil prices depressed, Iraq is on the verge of a meltdown. But instead of working to solve the country’s problems, Iraq’s political class has been consumed by a power struggle. Last weekend, protesters in Baghdad lost their patience and stormed the Parliament building, threatening further action if serious reform is not enacted soon.

This eruption was a long time coming. Last August, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi promised to improve government services and eliminate corruption. Unsurprisingly, he has failed to deliver. In response, protesters have demanded a new government and the abandonment of the sectarian quota system that has underpinned Iraqi governments since 2003.…  Seguir leyendo »

Iraq's situation is desperate. What makes it worse is that its political class, and many American officials, continue to push a cure that would be worse than the disease: a breakup of Iraq along sectarian lines.

If the past 11 years have proved anything, it is that a lack of representation and inclusiveness in Iraq’s government and institutions is not the problem. What we have learned since 2003 is that merely ensuring that there are ministers from each of Iraq’s main communities — Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds and minorities like the Chaldeans and Turkmen — will not ensure that they will represent those communities’ interests, let alone the national interest.…  Seguir leyendo »