|HIkma protesters in Najaf (Al Mirbad)|
Ammar Hakim’s Hikma party went into the opposition in June 2019. This was part of growing criticism of Prime Minister Adil Mahdi’s government. In a test of its new found position the party called for national protests on July 19. Those did not turn out as well as hoped for.
On June 16 Hikma announced that it was leaving the government and going into the opposition. A member of its political committee said that the achievements of Premier Mahdi were a joke. He called on the prime minister to go out to the streets to see how the country was really doing dealing with things like poor services. That led the party to call for national protests in 14 of Iraq’s 18 provinces. This was a first for Iraq’s post-2003 political order. After elections every party that won joined the new administration in a series of national unity governments. Other parties have criticized Mahdi as well leading to rumors that he could be replaced. The ruling lists and the premier were both worried about a repeat of the summer of 2018 when annual protests turned into riots in Basra and widespread violence. That could lead to the fall of the prime minister. These were all likely reasons why Hikma made its decision.
The demonstrations on July 19 was Hikma’s first real test of its new position, and the results were not heartening. That started with people only coming out in seven provinces (Baghdad, Basra, Muthanna, Dhi Qar, Najaf, Karbala, and Qadisiya), half the amount the party was hoping for. Only a about hundred people showed up at each demonstration except in Muthanna where it was reported over a thousand were in attendance. Second, in Basra they did not receive a warm welcome. Beforehand a group of sheikhs and the protest coordination committee both condemned Hikma’s plans saying they were trying to use the demonstrations for their own ends. Then the day of the protests there was a counter-demonstration in Basra. Finally, when buses were taking the Hikma people away rocks were thrown at them. This was obviously disappointing for Hakim. He believed that he could tap into popular discontent that hits the country during the summer heat. Instead he was called an opportunist trying to take advantage of the work done by local activists across the south over the years. He couldn’t organize enough people in enough governorates either. This will likely force a rethink of Hikma’s strategy.
Iraq News Network, “The Hikma list withdraws from the reform alliance,” 6/24/19
Al Mada, “Hikma tests its audience with a unified demonstration in 14 provinces and Fatah: the trend without influence,” 7/14/19
Al Masalah, “Hikma, demanding Abdul-Mahdi to take to the street: the report of the government achievements a “laugh,”” 7/9/19
- “Statement of Hikma demonstrations declares its rejection of the continuation of corruption and demands the absorption of competencies,” 7/19/19
Al Mirbad, “Basra police raise alert and preparedness after the end of demonstration,” 7/19/19
- “Demonstrations of the stream of Hikma and parents of the Sons of Nasiriya demanding services,” 7/19/19
- “Demonstration of the stream of Hikma in Muthanna to demand better services and implementation of the government program,” 7/19/19
- “Following the stream of Hikma are demonstrating in Muthanna to demand better government performance,” 7/19/19
- “Massive demonstrations in Najaf, Karbala and Diwaniya are demanding services,” 7/19/19
- “The return of the buses of the Hikma demonstrators in Basra after being beaten with stones,” 7/19/19
- “A simultaneous demonstration in Basra against the demonstration of the Hikma movement,” 7/19/19
NINA, “Abtan: Peaceful Demonstration In Front Of PM’s Office In Baghdad At 6:pm,” 7/19/19
Sattar, Omar, “Iraqi parliamentary groupings join hands in bid to oust Abdel Mahdi,” Al Monitor, 6/24/19
Sotaliraq, “Popular rejection of the Hakim demonstrations in Basra,” 7/16/19