In Iraq, two formerly formidable pro-Iranian Shia parties, which have seen their national assembly representation shrink dramatically, have called last Sunday’s parliamentary election a “scam”, accused the election commission of “manipulation”, and lodged formal objections.
In Lebanon, former ministers have challenged a judge who is conducting an investigation into the blast that devastated Beirut’s port last year.
In both countries the entrenched, sectarian political class is blamed for failing to deliver security, services, water, electricity and jobs, inciting violence, and precipitating deepening crises.
The Fatah bloc in Iraq, formed by paramilitary commander Hadi al-Amiri by uniting militias that have been charged with abusing and attacking opponents, is said to have won 16 seats in last Sunday’s election. In the 2018 election Fatah came second with 48 seats.
The newly established National State Forces alliance of former prime minister Haider al-Abadi and Shia religious leader Ammar al-Hakim has apparently garnered six seats. In 2018, they secured a combined total of 61 seats.
The 41 per cent of Iraqis who voted in Sunday’s election appear to have shunned these blocs and small parties allied to Iran, while casting ballots for the Shia Iraqi nationalist Muqtada al-Sadr, whose grouping came first with 73 seats out of 339.
The tally has been completed for 94 per cent of polling stations, but the final result has not been officially announced due to a manual count of 60,000 votes. Since this is unlikely to change the overall picture, the challenge to the outcome could continue, delaying the formation of a new cabinet.
In Lebanon, the investigation into the explosion of 2,700 tonnes of volatile ammonium nitrate in Beirut port, which killed at least 218 people and devastated neighbouring districts, has been suspended for a second time.
This follows the submission of fresh lawsuits by ex-ministers Ali Hassan Khalil and Ghazi Zeiter. They are members of the Shia Amal movement allied to Hizbullah. Its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, called for judge Tarek Bitar’s resignation in a national television address.
The initial suits were dismissed on Monday and the suspension lifted for just 24 hours.
The petitioners demanded the replacement of Bitar in response to an arrest warrant he issued for Khalil, who has failed to appear for interrogation.
Bitar has, reportedly, accused Khalil of negligence after he was warned about the explosive material while finance minister. Khalil has seemingly disappeared. Others who called for questioning have, such as former premier Hassan Diab, fled the country.
The recusal of Bitar could be a major political blow to recently appointed prime minister Najib Mikati, who has been tasked with initiating reforms to unlock $21 billion in foreign funds intended to stabilise Lebanon’s collapsing economy.