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Friend Or Foe:
Iraq’s Newest Political Party Causes Problems In the Provinces

Ali Nasseri
Seven members of Dhi Qar’s provincial council have defected to a brand new political party. But, local observers say, it’s just more of the same and the new party won’t make any real difference.
10.08.2017  |  Dhi Qar
Cleric Ammar al-Hakim announces the formation of the National Wisdom party.
Cleric Ammar al-Hakim announces the formation of the National Wisdom party.

The provincial government in Dhi Qar has been unstable for some time, with members of different parties and blocs defecting at will or forming new alliances. The most recent change saw seven members of the Muwatin, or Citizen bloc, join a brand new party created by the cleric Ammar al-Hakim.

 At the end of July al-Hakim, who had led one of the country’s largest Islamic parties, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, or ISCI, since 2009, announced he was leaving the party to form a new one. Called the National Wisdom party, Al-Hakim has said the new party, which has dropped Islamic from the name, is a project to rejuvenate Shiite Muslim politics in Iraq and to appeal to younger supporters. Al-Hakim had been at odds with older members of the ISCI for years.

As one commentator has noted, al-Hakim’s new party kept all the ISCI’s assets, essentially “stripping [them] of both the symbolism and the assets”.

Politicians in Dhi Qar appear to agree with al-Hakim’s new stand. The new party is about the creation of a new political generation,” said Adel al-Dukhili, the deputy governor of the province, one of those who defected to the National Wisdom party. ” A movement that believes in rapid change and turning challenges into opportunities, by adopting a clear manifesto.”

 

Ammar al-Hakim presides over the first official meeting of his new party.

 

“The leadership of the ISCI was inactive because of the age of the senior members and the slow pace of administration,” al-Dukhili continued. The new party, he argued, will come up with a program fast and enact it quickly.

Unfortunately for the ordinary people of Dhi Qar, they have heard all this before. There has been much chopping and changing of political alliances in the province in the past and none of them appear to have achieved very much, despite the optimistic claims of those politicians who were moving between parties.

This lack of stability is “a kind of struggle over power, thanks to the country’s many political failures,” explains Najim al-Ghazi, a lecturer in political science at Dhi Qar University. “This has been going on for 14 years. All of these splits and defections are just superficial. None of them deal with the underlying problems.”

Al-Ghazi believes that the best solution would be a peaceful political coup, led by voters during the next elections.

“The new National Wisdom Party doesn’t really represent any new program,” says Ali Abdul-Hadi, a local political analyst. “It was born as the result of internal conflicts in one party [the ISCI]. And it was born because of a desire to compete in upcoming elections.

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