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Opinion: Who is Haider Al-Abadi? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Is Iraq’s new Prime Minister, Haider Al-Abadi, another sectarian bigot like Nuri Al-Maliki? This is the question many are asking on social media, as more and more people dig into Iraqi Prime Minister-designate Haider Al-Abadi’s past, posting videos, statements and photos of him claiming they represent his political positions and calling on people to stand against him. I have reviewed many of these posts, and while I cannot confirm what they imply about Abadi, I can say that the man deserves to be given a chance, as he’s the choice of the Iraqi people’s representatives, and he’s also supported by Sunni, Arab and Kurdish parliamentarians and politicians.

Indeed, past experiences with Twitter, Facebook and various other websites have taught us that news reports carried on these sites are not always credible. They are also full of deliberately false information. Where they do contain factual information, it is often fragmented or presented in a way that prevents readers from reaching objective conclusions.

We all hope that the new prime minister is a leader for all Iraqis, and that he will build a flourishing state that puts Iraq among the ranks of progressive countries and restores hope and trust in its political system.

Abadi is not known for being linked to any extremist political trends, unless we recall periods of disturbances and electoral controversies. Abadi succeeds Nouri Al-Maliki, who has unfortunately undermined both himself and his office. Maliki began as a leader of all Iraqis, but degenerated into a mere politician seeking to exert personal dominance over Iraq’s institutions. In some ways, he ended up being as bad as the late dictator Saddam Hussein.

Despite this, the problem was not with Maliki, but with the political system which—after he became a prime minister thanks to an alliance with other parties—allowed him to seize control of all political, legislative and military institutions. Those who originally supported Maliki for sectarian or partisan reasons learned that he, like any other dictator, was not satisfied until he seized total control of the levers of power. Shi’ite leaders complained about his practices, and his willingness to resort to using security and intelligence services to threaten and blackmail them. Later, he even turned on his own allies and political comrades! In the end, everyone hated him and called for his removal, although he managed to attain enough votes—from both Sunni and Shi’ite parliamentarians—to be re-elected.

Abadi was nominated on one condition—that he not be another Maliki. This is what local, tribal, political and religious leaders agreed to, and this is what we hope will come to pass. He was appointed by parties who fought each other in the past and who finally agreed on the concept of “an Iraqi state for all Iraqis,” and in which the prime minister, speaker of parliament, and president represent a political system that in turn represents everyone. This serves the interests of the Shi’ites as much as the Sunnis, and the interests of the Arabs as much as the Kurds and the Turkmen.

The prime minister, if he wants, could choose to focus his job on serving only his sect. He could also choose to focus on his particular constituency and rewrite the constitution with the aim of serving only one group. In this case, however, Iraq as we know it would be cease to exist—it would become a smaller and weaker state in a sea of bigger and stronger regional countries.

The appointment Abadi as prime minister brought a wave of optimism because Maliki’s departure was itself a victory for the political process and for the new Iraqi system. I am confident that if Maliki had managed to impose himself as a prime minister for a third term—as he tried to do right up until the last minut—he would have ended up hanged in one of Baghdad’s squares after four years. His end would have been the same as that of the dictators who preceded him. He was a tyrant, and the whole world has seen how he exploited the forces under his personal control and whatever he could lay his hands on to impose himself and obstruct the nomination of Abadi.

We hope the Iraqis will be able to unite under Abadi’s administration, and that Iraq will begin a new phase in which Abadi launches new measures to restore confidence in the political system, the post of the prime minister, as well as the trust of the people of Iraq.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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