Updated May 14, 2018

Iraqi elections deepen political fault lines amid U.S.–Iran tensions

Supporters of Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr celebrate the results of the parliamentary election in Baghdad on May 13, 2018. Photo by Murtadha Sudani/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Turnout in the Iraqi election on Saturday hit a record low at less than 45%, down from 60% in the 2014 and 2010 elections. The public was disillusioned with the buffet of parties, whose members are seen as corrupt politicians vying for positions in a political bazaar after every election.

Why it matters: The product of ethno-sectarian power-sharing, past governments have been weak and ineffective. Iraqis wanted a new, corruption-free government that would offer services, jobs and security, and a victor with a clear agenda and a strong national mandate. Instead, this weekend’s elections only deepened the country's political fractures.

As identity politics failed to keep parties unified, intra-community factionalism emerged, with Shia, Sunni and Kurdish houses all internally divided and competing for votes. The winner this time around, Muktada al-Sadr, has about 55 of the 329 seats. In order to form a government, at least four of the major blocks will need to coalesce, but without a clear mandate or agenda, parties will resort to old practices of horse-trading for government positions and doling out patronage to their supporters.

Such a mismatch between demand for better, stronger government and the election results will keep Iraq in a vicious cycle. This time around, however, the system does not have the public support it hid behind in the past, foretelling public discontent and instability.

The big picture: These internal disputes are taking place as the two main foreign forces in Iraq, the U.S. and Iran, head toward greater hostility. The U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and the possibility of escalation, as well as the parliamentary gains made by former militia members, could turn Iraq once again into a war theater. Having just eased the horrors of ISIS, Iraq cannot stomach another round of such turmoil.

Bilal Wahab is the Nathan and Esther K. Wagner Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Go deeper

Your best defense against coronavirus

Photo: Adrian Greeman/Construction Photography/Avalon/Getty Images

Washing your hands is the best way to protect against the novel coronavirus, according to doctors and health officials, as the virus continues to spread around the globe.

Why it matters: Clean hands can stop germs from spreading in a community, a known characteristic in COVID-19 and influenza.

Go deeperArrow33 mins ago - Health

Major League Soccer embarks on its 25th season

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As Major League Soccer begins its 25th season, the league is financially stable and surging in popularity, and its 26 teams have gorgeous facilities and rapidly increasing valuations.

  • It also continues to expand, with David Beckham's Inter Miami and Nashville SC set to debut this season as the 25th and 26th teams. Plans are in place to reach 30 franchises by 2022 — triple the number from 2004.

Wall Street falls 3% as coronavirus correction worsens

raders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Photo: Scott Heins/Getty Images

Stocks fell more than 3% on Friday morning, pushing stocks further into correction territory.

Why it matters: It continues the ugly stretch for Wall Street that began after a spike in coronavirus cases around the world. The S&P is 15% below its recent peak, edging closer to the mark that would technically end the market’s decade-long rally.

Go deeper: The growing coronavirus recession threat