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Drawing Battle Lines:
Infighting On Maysan’s Provincial Council, A Sign Of Things To Come

Haider al-Husseini
A new coalition has been formed on Maysan’s provincial council. The group says they are committed to combatting corruption. But others say it’s really about an intra-Shiite scrap imported from Baghdad.
1.06.2017  |  Maysan
Not in the new coalition: Maysan's governor, Ali Dawai (centre), visits construction workers in 2014. (photo: علي الساعدي)
Not in the new coalition: Maysan's governor, Ali Dawai (centre), visits construction workers in 2014. (photo: علي الساعدي)

In Maysan, a new coalition of politicians on the provincial council says they are doing their best to combat corruption. The coalition is made up of 16 of the 27 council members in the southern Iraqi province, all from various parties. And they’ve recently made new rules about what advisers to the governor may and may not do, when it comes to wielding influence in the area.

The coalition is unique in Maysan’s provincial politics, an area where the Sadrist movement, led by cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, gets most of the electoral support.

We have a vision of a government that rules and an opposition that monitors that government.

“The coalition is trying to reform and resolve some of the political problems created here since 2003,” says Sarhan al-Ghalibi, a member of the council. “Mainly this is about the monopolization of power by the governor.”

The popular governor of Maysan, Ali Dawai, is a member of the Ahrar bloc, the political wing of the Shiite Muslim-dominated Sadrist movement. In fact, the Ahrar bloc politicians are the only ones who have not joined the new Maysan council coalition and some believe that, although the coalition looks like a rare display of unity, it is also a way for another Shiite Muslim party, the State of Law, to snipe at the Ahrar bloc. The two parties have recently been scrapping in Baghdad.  

As Fadel al-Dubaisi, who runs the Ahrar bloc’s office in Maysan, says nobody invited them to attend the meeting about the new coalition. “We heard about it in the media,” al-Dubaisi said. “That’s really shameful.”

“We wanted all the political parties in Maysan to join this coalition and we sent many invitations to the Ahrar bloc,” Jawad Rahim, the deputy head of the Maysan provincial council and a member of the new coalition, replied to the criticism. “But they refused to join us because they felt that the coalition could limit their powers.”

Rahim says that the aim of the coalition is to try and restore faith in local government institutions and to fight corruption. Part of this involves curtailing the personal powers of Dawai, the province’s governor. “It is not acceptable to put the future of, say, one teacher in the governor’s hands; he can just transfer that teacher from school to school on a whim.”

Haidar al-Mawla, a member of the State of Law party, says the coalition wouldn’t make much sense if the Ahrar bloc joined it. “We have a vision of a government that rules and an opposition that monitors that government, and possibly adjusts the path of that government,” al-Mawla says. “Those are the aims of the Maysan coalition.”

Another reason for the formation of the coalition is security, adds Arkan al-Bandawi, a senior politician in Maysan, who has also joined the coalition. “We want to improve services for the people here as well as the security situation, which is very important for a border province like Maysan,” al-Bandawi told NIQASH.

There is also an economic imperative for the coalition, where they believe there is corruption. One of the decisions they made recently was to close down the Sheeb border crossing, between between Iraq and Iran, for 10 days, and replace those responsible for running the checkpoint.

Apparently the coalition wanted to shut down the crossing point because there were suspicious transactions going on here and the border guards were corrupt, says Abbas al-Sayed Sarout, another local politician and member of the coalition.

No matter how well the current political union goes, the members of the coalition are not expected to compete in upcoming provincial elections as a unit. They would campaign for votes separately and follow the party line, as it is dictated by their various headquarters in Baghdad.

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