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The sense of unity in Iraq brought about by victory over the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has grown increasingly fragile. Motivated by the government’s unfulfilled reform agenda, a developing electricity crisis, and limited access to fresh water, widespread protests erupted this summer in Southern Iraq. Lack of access to these basic services remains a persistent issue in the country, as does the displacement of over two million Iraqis, rampant corruption, and high unemployment.

Though official results of the May 2018 parliamentary elections were initially delayed due to accusations of fraud which resulted in a full manual recount of the vote, the Sairoon Coalition, led by Muqtada al-Sadr, eventually emerged as the single largest parliamentary bloc. Sadr allied with former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s Victory Alliance to form the government with consensus candidate Adel Abdul Mahdi as Prime Minister. Abdul Mahdi and his cabinet face challenges to strengthen Iraq’s governing institutions and will need broader buy-in from all Iraqis, including Sunnis, Kurds, and other groups. Ultimately, the ability to implement key reforms will depend on the effectiveness of Iraq’s parliament and political parties to develop issue-based solutions to citizen priorities and address deep-rooted drivers of conflict to achieve peaceful coexistence. In order to address these challenges, the country must continue to develop the foundation for inclusive governance, responsive political parties, and mechanisms of participation for women and minorities in political and national reconciliation processes.

The National Democratic Institute (NDI) began working with reform-minded Iraqi politicians in 1999, and formally established its in-country presence in 2003. NDI works with political parties and Members of Parliament (MPs) to improve cross-party policy development and citizen outreach and promote the political participation of women and minorities. As Iraqi provinces are retaken from ISIS, the Institute empowers local women activists to promote a gender-sensitive conflict transformation and gain a voice in national reconciliation processes. To promote dialogue and help develop a shared evidence base, NDI has conducted over 40 nationwide surveys and 400 focus group sessions in Iraq since 2003. Through sharing results with Iraqi stakeholders and the international community, public opinion findings serve as a foundation for understanding public attitudes and priorities and help develop key public policies.

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