Posts Tagged 'protests'

What about Iraq?

By: Annette Wolden

The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt and the demonstrations spreading across the Middle East have led analysts world wide to ask the question: what country will be the next? In the guesswork over which government will be toppled next, Iraq has stood largely on the outside. Perhaps because it is assumed that the population has more than enough to struggle with already and is far from being able to mobilize after the troublesome election process in 2010. Nonetheless, there have been some protests in Iraq as well over the last few months. The Iraqi government is perhaps not in the same danger of being overthrown compared to the regimes in countries such as Yemen or Libya, but given the circumstances, the demonstrations may at least be said to carry some extra weight.

It can be argued that the demonstrations in the region have all initially sprung out of various and differing national demands, in Iraq one of the more pressing issues is the lack of stable flow of electricity. In February 2011 Acting Electricity Minister Hussain Shahristani stated that Iraq had an electricity shortage of about 5000 megawatts.[1] During the most recent demonstrations in Iraq, hundreds of people gathered in Baghdad to protest against poor services and sporadic power.[2] As mentioned this has been a recurring issue. In June 2010 the distribution of electricity got so bad that it resulted in mass protest in Basra and Nassariya that eventually led to the resignation of the former Minister of Electricity.[3] This proves that protest in Iraq can indeed have severe implications for politicians.

Since the call for stable access to electricity has been a long term issue in Iraq, it is interesting to see that the large scale policy changes which have been demanded by the population for so long, are only now becoming apparent against the back drop of regional protest that have already toppled two regimes. Perhaps adding to the severity of the situation is the fact that the Iraqi government is once again approaching summer with a severe shortage of electricity to distribute. As temperature rises, so does the use of air-conditions, and thus the demand for electricity. The failure to deliver may lead to deaths, as it did in 2010 when residents in some areas had only a few hours of power a day or less with temperatures reaching 50c°.

The Ministry of Electricity has responded to the recent demonstrations by announcing that Iraqis will receive their first 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity for free each month.[4] This is a considerable amount of free power, and a considerable amount of money saved for Iraqis belonging to the lower and middle classes. It is thus perhaps not unreasonable to ask whether this latest offer on the government’s side to some degree refelcts the perceived severity posed by the regional


[1] Reuters, “Iraq subsidizes power after protests over services Iraq government to supply free electricity”, Alarabiya, 12.02.11, http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2011/02/12/137362.html (Accessed 16.03.11).

[2] Reuters, “Iraq subsidizes power after protests over services Iraq government to supply free electricity”, Alarabiya, 12.02.11, http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2011/02/12/137362.html (Accessed 16.03.11).

[3] Ben Van Heuvlen, “Iraq’s electricity minister resigns”, Iraq Oil Report, 22.06.10, http://www.iraqoilreport.com/energy/electricity/iraqs-electricity-minister-resigns-4659/ (Accessed 16.03.11).

[4] Reuters, “Iraq subsidizes power after protests over services Iraq government to supply free electricity”, Alarabiya, 12.02.11, http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2011/02/12/137362.html (Accessed 16.03.11).

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