Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Fourth Wave of Anti-Pension Protests Hit Iraq, But Can They Achieve Their Goals?

 
For the fourth time since August 2013 hundreds of Iraqis took to the streets to protest against the lavish pensions that the country’s politicians receive. Again these demonstrations were seen in multiple cities. Many praised a recent Federal Supreme Court ruling that claimed to have ended pensions, but it turned out that it only covered a few top parliamentarians. That meant the issue is hardly resolved. Given the history of past protest movements however, the current one is unlikely to achieve anything.

On October 26, 2013 there were marches against parliament’s pensions in at least six cities. Hundreds were seen in Nasiriyah, Hillah, Karbala, Najaf, Basra, and Baghdad. Unlike the previous three demonstrations in August and earlier in October activists made it into central Baghdad. The police eventually cracked down on the participants however and drove them out along with attacking some members of the media as they had done previously. Many were celebrating a recent Federal Supreme Court ruling that was supposed to end the pension system for both former and current members of the legislature. Sadrist lawmaker Bahaa Hussein Ali Kamal Araji brought the lawsuit. There were several reports in the Iraq press however that claimed the court only abrogated parts of Law No. 50 of 2007 that covers the privileges of parliament. A Sadrist lawmaker told Al Rayy that only the speaker and his deputies were affected. At the same time, the court is supposed to issue additional opinions on the cabinet, the provincial councils, and the district and local councils over the course of the next few weeks. The courts may be the only way protesters can change anything. Parliament and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki promised to deal with the issue in August, but then failed to follow up on it. Iraq’s government has consistently proven to be unresponsive to public demonstrations. It usually gives lip service to their demands, and then uses the security forces to pressure them to stop.

Protesters in Baghdad’s Firdos Square Oct. 26, 2013
(AFP)
(AFP)
(AFP)

Once activists find out that the court case is not as comprehensive as originally reported they will continue to call for demonstrations. Maintaining momentum has always been an issue for these types of organizations. Their numbers already appear to be falling off. Just three weeks ago there were protests in 15 of Iraq’s 18 provinces. This time they came out in less than half of that. The anti-pension protests may already be going the route of the electricity and governance protests that occurred in previous years. They caused a stir, but were ultimately not able to shake the elite into any meaningful action.

SOURCES

Habib, Mustafa, “why iraqi MPs can never pass a law, and why it may endanger 2014 elections,” Niqash, 10/24/13

Iraq Times, “Demonstrations in several Iraqi cities to celebrate cancel the salaries of deputies pensions,” 10/26/13

Al-Mada, "Demonstrations Cancel retirement parliamentarians: Fallujah involved in the protests and the security of Baghdad, "smashes" lenses media," 10/27/13

Radio Nawa, “Hundreds protest in Firdous Square in central Baghdad to demand the abolition of the three presidencies retirement,” 10/26/13

Al Rayy, “Nassif confirms that the Federal Court did not abolish pensions for members of the House of Representatives,” 10/26/13

Shafaq News, “Demonstrations in several Iraqi cities to celebrate cancellation of MPs pensions,” 10/26/13

Sotaliraq, “Liberal bloc won a lawsuit to cancel pensions,” 10/23/13

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