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Security Brief: Behavior/Leadership Week of October 4

Week of Monday, October 4, 2021 | Issue 45

Antonella Palmiotti, Diana Dzh, Donia Hanaei, Behavior/Leadership (B/L) Team

Iraq Flag[1]

Date: October 5, 2021

Location: Nasiriyah, Iraq

Parties involved: Iraqi citizens; Iraqi government

The event: On October 5, 2021, young Iraqis began protesting against what they perceived to be rigged elections, choosing not to vote in the October 10 elections. Iraq is holding parliamentary elections to decide the president and confirm the prime minister. There is a lack of trust in the government and law enforcement stemming from the killing of 85 demonstrators in Nasiriyah, Iraq in November 2019.[2] These recent protests indicate that Iraqis mistrust their political system and politicians, due to their inability to address unemployment, economic instability, lack of essential services, and the rampant corruption in state institutions.[3] The unsteady global economy and fluctuating oil prices have affected the Iraqi economy leaving 40% of Iraqi youth unemployed.[4] Tensions are high as the economy attempts to recover, relying heavily on forecasted oil price improvements from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).[5]

The implications:

  • The protests calling for the boycott of the upcoming elections almost certainly indicate the lack of trust in the legitimacy of Iraq’s electoral process. It is likely that the dominant coalitions – Sadr Movement and the al-Fatah Alliance – may manipulate the electoral results in their favor. If either of the two coalitions emerges victoriously, it will likely lead to a long government formation process to reach a compromise regarding the prime minister’s appointment. If the current Prime Minister Mustafa al-Khadimi is reconfirmed in office, he is unlikely to improve the socio-economic conditions of Iraq, which could likely cause further discontent.

  • The lack of transparency in the political system, which denies Iraqis the ability to directly vote for the president and prime minister, is likely to further increase the distrust in the electoral process. Recent demonstrations in Nasiriyah will likely produce one of the two following outcomes. The demonstrations against government corruption will almost certainly discourage Iraqis from voting. A low voter turnout, representing only part of the Iraqi constituency, may elect a party that could likely be unacceptable to the majority of the people. Secondly, some protesters may likely disagree with the boycott and insist that voting is the best way to bring change to the Iraqi democratic system. The potential division among the protest front and Iraqi youth may likely disrupt the movement for greater democracy.

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[2] Youth in Iraq protest hub vow to boycott 'rigged' polls, France 24, October 2021,

[3] ECONOMIC DRIVERS OF YOUTH POLITICAL DISCONTENT IN IRAQ: The Voice of Young People in Kurdistan, Baghdad, Basra and Thi-Qar, Global Partners Governance, 2020,

[4] Youth in Iraq protest hub vow to boycott 'rigged' polls, France 24, October 2021,

[5] Iraq: Standing at a Crossroad with Limited Fixes to an Economy that is Desperate for Transformation, The World Bank, May 2021,



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