- The present report is submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 2421 (2018), in which the Secretary-General was requested to report every three months on progress made towards fulfilling the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). The report covers key developments relating to Iraq and provides an update on the activities of the United Nations in Iraq since my previous report, dated 9 July 2018 (S/2018/677), and the briefing to the Security Council by my Special Representative for Iraq and Head of UNAMI on 8 August.
II. Summary of key political developments
A. Political situation
On 9 August 2018, the Independent High Electoral Commission’s Board of Judges announced the provisional results of the parliamentary elections held in Iraq on 12 May. The announcement followed the completion of a partial manual recount, which led to minimal changes to the original results that were first announced by the Independent High Electoral Commission on 19 May. On 19 August, the Federal Supreme Court officially certified the election results, marking the start of the 90-day constitutional timetable for convening the Council of Representatives (the parliament) and forming the Government. In accordance with constitutional requirements, on 27 August the President of Iraq, Fuad Masum, issued a decree inviting the new Council of Representatives to convene its first session within the constitutional time frame.
On 3 September, the fourth Council of Representatives under the Constitution of 2005 held its inaugural session under the chairmanship of the eldest parliamentary member and interim Speaker, Mohammed Ali al-Zaini. Following a swearing-in ceremony, the new parliamentarians aimed to proceed with the formation of the largest parliamentary bloc and the election of a new Speaker and the two Deputy Speakers, in accordance with constitutional requirements. Two parliamentary blocs subsequently submitted their respective lists to the interim Speaker: the “Reform and Construction” bloc formed by Muqtada al-Sadr (Sa’iron Alliance), Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi (Nasr (Victory Alliance)), Ammar al-Hakim (National Wisdom Movement), Iyad Allawi (Wataniya Alliance) and Osama al-Nujaifi (Iraqi Decision Alliance); and the “Construction” bloc formed by Nouri al-Maliki (State of Law), Hadi al-Amiri (Fatah) and individual parliamentarians previously affiliated with Nasr, the Iraqi Decision Alliance, the Wataniya Alliance and other groups. With each of the two blocs claiming to be the largest and thus entitled to form the Government, there was controversy over whether individual parliamentarians could join other political parties after the ratification of the election results. Amid legal and procedural disagreements, recommendations were made to seek the advice of the Federal Supreme Court as to which of the two blocs had the largest number of seats. The interim Speaker announced that the session would resume the following day, but on 4 September, the Council failed to convene due to the lack of a quorum. After consulting with the heads of the parliamentary blocs, the interim Speaker announced that the first session would resume on 15 September.
The emergence of two parliamentary blocs, each claiming authority to form the Government, reflects the political fragmentation that has characterized the negotiations on government formation. The two Shia election frontrunners, Muqtada al-Sadr (Sa’iron Alliance) and Hadi al-Amiri (Fatah) have been competing to win the parliamentary majority. While the Fatah coalition reached out to Sunni and Kurdish parties to establish the “Construction” bloc, the Sa’iron Alliance consolidated the “Reform and Construction” bloc with the National Wisdom Movement, Nasr and Wataniya Alliance coalitions on 19 August. Earlier, on 14 August, prominent Sunni leaders, including Osama al-Nujaifi and Khamis al-Khanjar (Iraqi Decision Alliance),
Jamal al-Karbouli (Al-Hal) and Salim al-Jubouri (Wataniya Alliance), had announced the formation of the “Mihwar al-Watani Alliance” to engage in negotiations as a single Sunni entity, but individual negotiations with the two larger blocs eventually led to the splitting of that Alliance. Divisions have also remained among the Kurdish political parties, both between the two larger parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, and between those two parties and smaller opposition parties, including the Movement for Change (Gorran) and the Coalition for Democracy and Justice.
The first session of the Council of Representatives resumed on 15 September with the aim of electing the new Speaker and the two Deputy Speakers. By the time of voting, the list of candidates for the Speaker position had narrowed to three individuals: Mohammed al-Halbousi (Al-Hal), Khalid al-Obaidi (Nasr) and Osama al-Nujaifi (Iraqi National Decision). Securing 169 votes cast in a secret ballot, Mohammed al-Halbousi was elected the new Speaker. The posts of the First and Second Deputy Speakers went to Hassan al-Kaabi (Sa’iron Alliance) and Bashir Haddad (Kurdistan Democratic Party), respectively.
On 17 September, the Council of Representatives called for the candidates fo r the position of President of Iraq to submit their applications by 23 September, in accordance with the constitutional time frame. For the first time under the Constitution, the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan did not present a common presidential candidate. The Kurdistan Democratic Party nominated Fuad Hussein, the current Chief of Staff to the President of the Kurdistan Region, while the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan nominated its former member Barham Salih. Notably, an independent female politician, Sarwa Abdul Wahid (formerly Movement for Change (Gorran)), nominated herself for the Presidency, as did many other female candidates.
On 2 October, the Council of Representatives held a voting session to elect the new President. Among 20 candidates, Barham Salih and Fuad Hussein received the highest number of votes, 165 and 89 respectively. Female candidate Sarwa Abdul Wahid received 18 votes. As no candidate achieved the required two-thirds majority, the new Speaker called for a second round of voting with the two leading candidates. In the second round, Barham Salih garnered the required majority with 219 votes. Fuad Hussein obtained 22 votes. Thereafter, Barham Salih was sworn in as President of Iraq before the Council of Representatives.
Following his election, the President held a meeting with the new Speaker, the Chair of the Federal Supreme Court, Medhat al-Mahmoud, representatives of the “Reform and Construction” and the “Construction” parliamentary blocs and former Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi in order to discuss the nomination of the Prime Ministerdesignate. Upon an agreement between and the recommendation of the two largest alliances, the President appointed Adil Abdul-Mahdi as the Prime Minister-designate, charging him with forming a new Government within the 30-day constitutional timeline.
Demonstrations intensified over the lack of basic services in southern Iraq during the reporting period. On 20 August, owing to water contamination and the deteriorating health and environmental situation, the Independent High Commission for Human Rights called on the Government to declare Basrah a “disaster area”. Street protests resumed and, though they were initially peaceful, violent incidents began occurring in early September. Incidents included clashes between the protesters and the security forces, the burning of official and political party buildings, attacks against the Consulate of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Basrah and the Basrah headquarters of the popular mobilization forces, as well as indirect fire in the vicinity of the Consulate of the United States of America in Basrah and the United States Embassy in Baghdad. On 7 September, protests were reported in Baghdad. On 25 September, a female civil activist was shot dead in Basrah. On 28 September, the United States decided to close and evacuate its Consulate in Basrah Governorate owing to security concerns.
Many political parties and leaders expressed grave concerns about the situation in Basrah, urging the Government to ensure the safety of the protesters and to respond to the legitimate demands of citizens. Notably, in a televised speech on 6 September, Muqtada al-Sadr called on the new Council of Representatives to hold an extraordinary session to discuss possible actions. On 8 September, the Council held its first extraordinary session under the interim Speaker and in the presence of Prime Minister Al Abadi, the Ministers for Health, Interior, Electricity, Water Resources and Reconstruction, as well as the Governor of Basrah, Asaad al-Aidani. The Council agreed on several measures to support the people of Basrah, including the deployment of a ministerial team to oversee the implementation of those measures, the release of funds to the Governorate, the provision of support for civil society reconstruction initiatives and the promotion of dialogue with youth on reforms.
The Government has sustained its efforts to address the demands of citizens, taking a series of administrative and security measures. On 10 September, the Prime Minister led a ministerial delegation to Basrah. In the wake of his visit, the Government issued a number of resolutions pertaining to the maintenance and rehabilitation of water and sewage facilities, the provision of funds and mat erials, the distribution of food allowances and the development of procedures to address unemployment in Basrah. As part of security measures, on 28 September, the Prime Minister ordered immediate action by the Ministry of Interior to investigate recent incidents of assassination and kidnapping in Basrah, Baghdad and other locations. On 2 October, the Prime Minister stated that 2,000 additional security personnel had been deployed to Basrah and called for an evaluation of the performance of provincial police forces. On 18 September, the new Speaker visited Basrah to discuss the situation with governorate officials. On 27 September, the Council of Representatives endorsed a series of recommendations, including a proposal to investigate the performance of the Ministers for Health, Water Resources and Municipalities and to request those ministries to develop a strategic plan to resolve the crisis in Basrah.
On 30 September, the Kurdistan Region held its fourth parliamentary elections, which were the first electoral process to be conducted by the Kurdistan Independent High Electoral Commission. Field reports gathered by the Commission indicated that all 5,941 polling stations in 1,260 polling centres throughout the Region opened and closed on time. In addition, on 28 September, 471 polling stations in 99 polling centres were set up for the use of security forces, so they could vote in advance. Of approximately 3 million eligible voters, the Commission reported voter turnout at 58.0 per cent for regular voting and 91.7 per cent for special voting by security forces. A total of 773 candidates belonging to 29 entities ran for 111 seats. A total of 241 female candidates (31 per cent) ran for election, in line with Kurdistan parliamentary election law, which stipulates that 30 per cent of parliamentary seats be allocated to women.
Election day unfolded, by and large, in a peaceful and orderly fashion across the Kurdistan Region. In the days that followed, allegations of fraud and vote -rigging surfaced. On 1 October, the New Generation Movement stated it would reject the results of the elections and boycott the Parliament of the Kurdistan Region because of the alleged fraud.
On 1 October, the Kurdistan Independent High Electoral Commission announced that the results of the elections would be issued only after all complaints filed by political entities had been settled. On 3 October, the Commission stated that it would delay the announcement of the preliminary results owing to outstanding complaints. On 4 October, based on a tally of 85 per cent of the ballot, partial results were announced indicating the number of votes garnered by various coalitions and political parties. The Commission has yet to announce the final results.