The U.N. envoy for Iraq urged its political leaders on Wednesday to listen to the people and seize the opportunity to form “a patriotic, inclusive and non-sectarian national government” that will use the country’s vast resources including oil to benefit all Iraqis.
A new government can’t be formed until final results of May 12 parliamentary elections are announced. Voting was marred by allegations of fraud and irregularities and a partial recount of ballots was ordered. It was completed Monday but the election commission didn’t make the final results public.
U.N. special representative Jan Kubis told the Security Council that a new national government must prioritize a host of political, economic and social reforms as well as reconciliation and good governance including fighting corruption.
It must also create jobs, put all armed groups “under the strict control of the state,” and act against “insubordinate militias and criminal gangs,” and tackle inequality, he said.
Despite billions of dollars spent since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion toppled dictator Saddam Hussein, many Iraqi cities and towns are still experiencing severe power cuts and rolling blackouts, issues that partly fueled last month’s protests in Iraq’s southern Shiite heartland.
Kubis said Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi “has made major efforts to provide swift and tailored responses to legitimate popular demands,” but the measures “remain insufficient to address the depth of people’s needs and concerns.”
The elections, the fourth since Saddam was toppled, saw the lowest turnout in 15 years which Kubis said already delivered “a strong message of dissatisfaction with the current state of management of public affairs.”
“Although the scale of protest has now decreased,” he said, “demonstrations are far from over, including around major oil installations in Basra,” in southern Iraq.
Iraqis also faces a continuing threat from the Islamic State extremist group, which controlled nearly a third of the country after its 2014 offensive. In recent years, Iraqi forces backed by a U.S.-led coalition have gradually driven the militants from all the territory they once held and the government declared military victory over the extremist group late last year.
But Kubis said remnants of the Islamic State group, also known by the Arabic name Daesh, “continue sporadically to conduct terrorist attacks against civilians, government premises and the Iraqi security forces.”
“Daesh remains a threat,” he said. “Daesh tactics include the targeting of local mayors and their families, and the abduction and killing of other civilians, including at fake check points.”
Although the level of violence in Iraq has decreased since last year, Kubis said, “armed conflict, terrorism and acts of violence continued to take a toll on civilians.”
In June, he said, at least 76 civilians were killed and 129 wounded, and in July at least 79 civilians were killed and 99 wounded.
So far this year, Kubis said, Iraqi courts have publicly announced 76 death sentences for terrorism-related crimes including against 24 women. He said 23 of them were foreigners — 17 Turks, 3 from Krgyzstan, 2 Azerbaijanis and 1 German.
Kubis said 26 executions have been announced so far this year.
“It is time to address the root causes of terrorism by engaging in constructive and genuine national dialogue,” he said.
Kubis said the demonstrations in southern Iraq put a spotlight on the region’s “massive and long-neglected social, economic and development needs” which weren’t addressed partly due to the priority given to fighting Daesh.
It is even more urgent that these inequalities are addressed now, he said, because tens of thousands of young men from the south and Baghdad who were mobilized to fight Daesh are now returning home “without jobs, and without adequate support for them and the families of the martyrs” who were killed.