Thursday, June 9, 2011

Maliki’s 100-Day Deadline To Improve Iraq’s Government Leads To Nothing

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


amagi said...

So, how is it that Maliki hasn't lost all credibility? Is he at least doing the televised reviews? Even if he isn't able to can these people, discussing successes and failures could still make them politically accountable.

Any indication of the size of the protests this Friday? It's getting to be summer in Iraq again and with the power grid still inordinantly taxed it's gonna be sizzling...

Anonymous said...

Good post but I would like to remind that Moqtada gave 6 months to Maliki to improve the performance of the government. So maybe Maliki just is following Moqtada and Iran mandates...Is not worthless say that during these 100 days Maliki cancelled the F-16 contract with Americans and while punish the demonstrators in Tahir square he allow a Mahdy militia (serial killers) demonstration in Sadder City and demoted and sacked more than 600 officers in the army (most of them Sunnies or Shia seculars) without mention the failure of Al Fao port project. So soon will miss the Bush monthly video-conference meetings with Maliki instead of the Biden useless visits to Baghdad

Joel Wing said...

Amagi I think that most of the public just thinks that this whole episode was business as usual. The government makes promises, nothing usually happens. It will only matter if people hit the streets again.

I haven't heard how big Friday's demonstration is planned for. They have not been big at all. On May 27 it was around 250, June 3 around 500. In a city the size of Baghdad that's nothing.

Anonymous I don't think it matters how long the deadline is set, 100 days, 6 months. None of the projects they have on line are going to be accomplished in such a short period of time. It's going to take years because Iraq is so far behind because of the wars and sanctions. In fact, Iraq may never get out of some of these problems as many developing countries have issues with their services. As for the F-16s, there was an article saying that they didn't know where the money went. It disappeared into the bureaucracy.

Joel Wing said...

Amagi forgot to say that yesterday Maliki had TV cameras on during a cabinet session broadcasting it. The ministers are supposed to present their reports on TV as well.

amagi said...


Well, that's something. And there must be many stop-gap solutions that can (and could have been) rolled out in 100 days (I think one was -- the gov't has started giving away generator fuel and (possibly generators as well?) for free). I wish I could see the inner workings of these ministries! These bureaucrats show up to work, I presume, and do what, exactly, on a daily basis?

Joel Wing said...

During the 100 days Maliki cracked down on the demonstrators, canceled the first part of the F-16 deal, but the money was not transferred to the food ration system like it was supposed to, did start handing out free generator fuel, they started paving some roads, cancelled direct payments as part of the food rations. Again, I don't think there was anything behind the 100-days other than to silence the protests.

Mark @ Israel said...

I agree, the 100-day deadline was just a promise meant to be broken to silence the protesters. It wasn't at all feasible for the government to implement total reform within 100 days for it won't be enough to overhaul the entire system. Hopefully, the government can bring in some changes to urgent concerns.