On February 27, 2011, in the midst of nationwide protests, Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki promised countrywide reforms. He said that local offices, the provincial governments, and the national ministries would all be held accountable within 100-days, ending on June 7. It quickly became apparent that this was a meaningless deadline as the government could do little in such a short period of time, there was no criteria for how the government was to be assessed, and the premier’s top priority was to silence the demonstrations, not bring about real efficiency to the bureaucracy.
Even before the 100-days was up, the prime minister started backtracking. On April 2, Maliki gave an interview with the Associated Press where he said that the government was performing better, and those ministries that were still struggling could be given more time. The idea of giving public offices an extension to improve was aired again in early June, just before the 100 days expired. By doing so, Maliki was making it clear that the deadline was meaningless. Everyone who didn’t present a positive report within the given timeframe, could be assured of a new one.
Wanting to keep the public relations campaign going, Maliki was quoted as saying that the citizenry would have a role in evaluating the government’s work after the 100-days. Ali Dabbagh, Baghdad’s official spokesman told the press that each minister would appear on television, present their progress reports, and then give their plans on what they intended to do in the future. Again, this move towards transparency was undermined by the fact that there were no consequences for any official that performed badly or didn’t meet their marks.
Most importantly, the prime minister could not bring about deep changes even if he wanted to. Iraq’s bureaucracy is known to be run from the top down making independent decisions difficult at best. The ministries and provincial governments lack capacity and know how to implement many plans. Corruption eats away at funding, and the laws are contradictory towards foreign investment. Baghdad has started ambitious development plans for services and the economy, but those will take years to come to fruition. Talk of replacing any ministers that under performed was also out of the question because of the national unity government. Different parties run the ministries, none of which would accept having one of their members fired.
When protests broke out in January 2011, the Iraqi government was caught flatfooted. It responded with a slew of bold promises of fixing problems like the lack of services and corruption, while rolling out the security forces to suppress the activists. Maliki’s 100-day deadline was at the center of this campaign. Afterward, Baghdad was largely successful in breaking up most of the protests, so that when the time expired for government reforms, there was little pressure from the street to do anything when it turned out to be an empty promise. Demonstrators have promised to come out on Friday, June 10 to call officials out on their lack of improvement after the 100-days, but unless they are large and spread nationally again, Maliki will not be motivated to respond to them with anything other than with the police and army, and more meaningless pledges.
Allen, Karl, “100-day ultimatum was misunderstood, says Maliki,” AK News, 6/8/11
Alsumaria, “Maliki calls on Iraq ministers to submit reports on ministries achievements and hindrances,” 5/19/11
- “Maliki to set another 100 day deadline in Iraq,” 6/8/11
Aswat al-Iraq, “Citizens Should Participate in 100-day Evaluation, Maliki,” 6/5/11
Carlstrom, Gregg, “Maliki asks for patience on Iraq reforms,” Al Jazeera, 6/7/11
Craig, Tim, “Maliki faces possibility of new Iraq protests,” Washington Post, 6/6/11
Currency Newshound, “Maliki’s coalition is likely to extend 100-day limit; While some ministries were successful, some need more time,” 6/4/11
Ibrahim, Waleed and Kami, Aseel, “Iraq govt struggles to cool anger over daily woes,” Reuters, 6/8/11
Mohammed, Muhanad, “Iraq PM sets 100 day deadline for gov after protests,” Reuters, 2/27/11