Will Secular Parties gain Upper Hand in Iraq?

By Ali Mamouri for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Islamist parties have dominated the Iraqi political scene since the first elections in 2005 after the fall of Saddam Hussein. As a reaction to their long history of being repressed under Saddam's regime — a repression that included leftist and liberal currents — those parties gained more support.

The Islamist parties’ failure in managing the country has given a boost to secular and civil currents, and the Iraqi street is currently witnessing a significant growth of these currents through the protests that have been going on since last year.

As Islamist parties now fear losing their electoral support on the Iraqi street, they are trying to move closer to the civil currents by adopting their rhetoric and protests, and by trying to scare the citizens away from the secularists.

Some Islamist parties, such as the Islamic Dawa Party, have accused the secularists of intending to destroy religion in Iraqi society. In his speech April 9 in Babil province, head of the Dawa Party Nouri al-Maliki said that the goal of the ongoing protests is not reform, but "targeting the Islamist project and Islam itself." He added, "They are saying that Islamists must leave their government positions and go to their mosques and Husseiniyas [Shiite houses of worship]."

Maliki’s speech came in response to recent demands to form a government of technocrats instead of the current sectarian and partisan quota system. Maliki expressed his concern about the demands that would overthrow the Islamist parties in favor of secular technocratic figures, saying, "When we talk about forming a government, they talk about technocrats. They say that independents should lead the country, but aren’t there Islamists who are technocrats and hold advanced degrees and are professionals? In fact, we have got more [of them]!”

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