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IRAQ: Electricity minister resigns after violent demonstrations

June 21, 2010 |  2:52 pm

Kareem Waheed, Iraq’s electricity minister, resigned Monday after a weekend of violent demonstrations in southern Iraq.

Waheed weathered four years in his post, picked by the country’s then-unified Shiite political coalition for his job in 2006. Billed as a technocrat, Waheed failed to solve the Gordian knot of Iraq’s electricity woes. He coped with a faulty power supply, complicated by fuel shortages, poor infrastructure, corruption and the country’s rampant violence.

Under Waheed, even in relatively good times, power in cities was erratic. It was normal for one district to receive six hours of power per day while another area received just two. But with temperatures now reaching 120 degrees and demonstrations held since Saturday in the south, Waheed’s resignation could be read as a symbolic act of contrition by Iraq’s caretaker government.  

Frustrations are running high. On Sunday, Grand Ayatollah Bashir Hussein Najafi, one of four senior Shiite clerics in Iraq, issued a statement condemning the poor electricity situation in Iraq. He also defended the right of Iraqis to hold peaceful demonstrations. Time will tell whether Waheed’s resignation helps cool the situation, or whether the protests mark the start of a new era of popular dissatisfaction.

-- Ned Parker in Baghdad

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