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Abdul Mahdi Snubs Local Officials during Basra Visit

Abdul Mahdi Snubs Local Officials during Basra Visit

Monday, 21 January, 2019 - 07:15
Iraq's Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi arrives to Basra, Iraq January 20, 2019. Iraqi Prime Minister Media Office/Handout via REUTERS
Baghdad - Fadel Al-Nashmi
Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi visited on Sunday the southern province of Basra that has been rocked since last summer by popular protests over corruption, water pollution, unemployment and lagging services.

Basra is considered the country’s main hub for oil, producing around 90 percent of Iraq's total revenue. However, the city represents one of the biggest challenges to the newly appointed prime minister, given the high levels of complaint among residents, and the threat of renewed demonstrations during summer’s sweltering heat as temperatures rise to more than 50 degrees Celsius, coupled with shortages of water and electricity that can be life-threatening.

In the summer of 2018, a water crisis in the city left more than 120,000 people hospitalized and sparked a massive protest movement. Since, Basra is still rocked by demonstrations every Friday demanding more access to drinking water, steady electricity and jobs for unemployed youth.

In his first trip since he was named prime minister last October, Abdul Mahdi toured Sunday infrastructure and service projects, including water provision services in the Shatt Al-Arab area.

“The prime minister called for redoubled efforts so these projects can be accomplished as quickly as possible,” his office said in a statement.

Observers noticed that the premier did not inform local officials in Basra about his visit and did not meet with the governor or members of the provincial council.

“Basra’s governor and head of the provincial council were not present in the city on Sunday. However, Abdul Mahdi could have met any official representing them … there are disputes between the two sides,” an informed source told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Provincial council member Ghanem Hamid Al-Miyahi said: “We ignore why Abdul Mahdi visited Basra without informing local officials, despite being on a mission that represents the Iraqi economy.”

A local journalist, Shahab Ahmad, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the prime minister likely kept his visit unannounced for security reasons, or to avoid hearing anti-government slogans.

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