What We're Watching: Iraqis storm parliament, US nears landmark climate deal, Senegal set to vote

What We're Watching: Iraqis storm parliament, US nears landmark climate deal, Senegal set to vote

Supporters of Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr storm the parliament building in Baghdad, Iraq.

REUTERS/Ahmed Saad

Anti-Iran protesters storm Iraq’s parliament

Hundreds of Iraqi protesters breached Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone on Wednesday and stormed the parliament. The demonstrators – supporters of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose bloc won the most seats in parliamentary elections last fall – chanted anti-Iran slogans as they rummaged through paperwork and took selfies. Crucially, they rallied against the candidacy of Mohammed al-Sudani, a former minister backed by a pro-Iran alliance, to become the next PM. For almost a year, Tehran-aligned parties have prevented al-Sadr from forming a new government, prompting the cleric’s 73 lawmakers to resign en masse last month in protest, and plunging the crisis-ridden country further into political and social turmoil. As a result, the pro-Iran bloc became the biggest parliamentary faction … by default. The demonstrators have since disbursed, but temperatures are rising in a country where joblessness and popular disillusionment are sky-high. What’s more, al-Sadr has proven adept at whipping his supporters into a frenzy in recent months, suggesting that instability in Iraq is likely to get much worse.


A historic US climate breakthrough?

Democrats appear to have forged a landmark deal to combat climate change. The $369 billion investment and tax package has been greeted ecstatically by climate activists in the US and around the globe, but it’s being condemned by Republicans who warn it will further fuel inflation. Key to the breakthrough: plans to use tax incentives, rather than relying more heavily on government spending, to boost wind, solar, geothermal, battery, and other clean energy industries. Why is this potentially such a big deal? Given the size of its economy and the scale of its carbon emissions, there can be no global breakthrough in the fight against climate change without active leadership and major investment from the United States. Based on past voting patterns of US lawmakers, it’s clear there can be no climate leadership and major investment unless Democrats hold the White House and have majorities in both houses of Congress. November’s US midterm elections will likely give Republicans control of at least one house of Congress, and President Biden’s abysmal approval ratings give the GOP an excellent shot in 2024. The breakthrough came when Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) appeared to drop previous opposition to the scale of this plan. He says his fears that the package will further stoke inflation have been addressed. There’s still a wildcard: Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), the other Democrat who sometimes bucks her party on big legislation, hasn’t yet made her position clear.

Will Senegal fall to Africa's third-term curse?

Senegalese voters head to the polls Sunday for a parliamentary election amid a recent uptick in violent anti-government protests in West Africa's most stable democracy. The vote is seen as a referendum on the future of President Macky Sall, who might run for a third term in 2024 despite being constitutionally limited to two. The recent turmoil was triggered by the constitutional council's decision to bar the entire main opposition candidate list from Sunday’s vote on a technicality. The nixed legislative roster includes Ousmane Sonko, a popular politician who came in third in the 2019 presidential election. (In 2021, Senegal was rocked by “apocalyptic” protests when Sonko was briefly arrested on trumped-up rape charges.) Although Sall has only hinted at his intentions for 2024, the opposition fears he will succumb to Africa's "third-term curse," which sees leaders violate term limits to remain in power. The recent track record is mixed: Alassane Ouattara pulled it off in the Ivory Coast in 2020, but a year later Alpha Condé was ousted in a coup in Guinea. Low turnout on Sunday would be seen as a protest vote against Sall.
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