| 30 November 2022, Wednesday |

Iraq: weapons are not the solution to state’s problems, says prime minister

Weapons in Iraq are not the solution to the crises the country is facing, Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi said as he encouraged citizens to participate in the upcoming elections to create a “better” change for the country.

Iraq faces an array of serious issues from a depilated health care system, to a war-battered economy to reign in armed groups that operate outside of the state’s authority and corruption.

The country has witnessed dozens of assassinations and targeted killings of activists and reporters in recent months by unknown gunmen, the latest was Ihab Al Wazni who was murdered last month in the southern holy city of Karbala.

“There is anarchy in Iraq’s planning system that has caused the accumulation of a large number of problems. The use of weapons is not the solution, rather elections and a large voter turnout is needed to change for the better,” Mr Al Kadhimi said during a visit to the southern governorate of Wasit.

Iraq is set to hold early elections on October 10, a response to a key demand by anti-government protesters since late 2019.

“The repercussions of the political situation have led to the problems we are experiencing today, and the change of reality will take place with the wide participation in the elections,” said the prime minister.

Since taking office last May, Mr Al Kadhimi vowed to meet the demands of protesters by holding early elections on June 6, 2021, nearly a year ahead of schedule.

These were later postponed to October 10.

The delay was due to “technical” requirements, Mr Al Kadhimi said in January in a proposal submitted to the Cabinet to ensure a transparent electoral process.

He did not provide details on what the issues were.

The May 2018 federal elections were mired with allegations of voter fraud and corruption and saw historically low turnout.

Over 25 million Iraqis are eligible to vote in the upcoming ballot, however, those living abroad will be excluded from casting their ballots, according to Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission said in April.

The prime minister embarked on a two day visit to the southern governorate of Wasit to empower Iraq’s agriculture sector that was severely depleted by years of war and employment opportunities in the south.

Mr Al Kadhimi said that “complete dependency on oil has been turned into an attraction for corruption, and we must rely on real alternatives, the most important of which is agriculture.”

“We must work together and make every effort to return Iraq to its agricultural position in the region,” he said.

Iraq’s agriculture sector cannot succeed without developing its industries, he said, adding that “it requires serious foreign and local investments that the government must work on to attain.”