The vote that could shape Iraq
Muqtada al-Sadr, an influential but mercurial Shiite cleric, is poised to lead Iraq after a court certified the results of a parliamentary vote in October. Election officials said the turnout Sunday was 41 percent — a record low that reflected a deep disdain toward politicians and government leaders who have made Iraq one of the world’s most corrupt countries.
The Sadrist Bloc, the political movement that takes its name from the cleric, won up to 20 additional seats in Parliament, consolidating its status as the single biggest bloc in the chamber and giving al-Sadr an even more decisive vote over the country’s next prime minister.
The outcome could further complicate Iraq’s challenge in steering diplomatically between the U.S. and Iran, adversaries that both see Iraq as vital to their interests. Al-Sadr and his aides have refused to meet with American officials, and he has an uneasy relationship with Iran, where he has pursued his religious studies and which he cannot afford to antagonize.
Analysis: “He is using some sharp language against Iran and the resistance groups affiliated with Iran,” Gheis Ghoreishi, a political analyst, said of al-Sadr’s victory speech. “There is a real lack of trust and grievances between Sadr and Iran.”
A possible homecoming for Spain’s disgraced king
In the years since Juan Carlos, the former king of Spain, fled the country to escape corruption investigations, some of the cases have been resolved or dropped. Now, some Spaniards are calling for him to be allowed to come home without fear of spending the rest of his life in jail.
Prosecutors in Switzerland recently dropped a money-laundering case against Juan Carlos, while another investigation in Spain was paused after he paid millions in back taxes. Spain’s prosecutors say they see little hope for success in the remaining corruption cases, because the alleged events took place before the abdication, when Juan Carlos had immunity from prosecution.
Before his fall from grace, Juan Carlos was beloved by many Spaniards in the kind of adoring way that many Britons revere Queen Elizabeth II. He was credited with restoring Spanish democracy and uniting the country after the death of the dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.
Official line: “It’s only logical that he comes and he stays here,” Felipe González, Spain’s former prime minister, said this month. But Pedro Sánchez, the current prime minister, said recently that he had not been consulted on a possible return and that Juan Carlos still “needs to give an explanation” for his scandals.
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Around the World
Disgust creeps into every corner of our social lives, a piece of evolutionary hardware designed to protect our stomachs that expanded into a system for protecting our souls.
The more you read about it, the more convinced you might be that disgust is the energy powering a whole host of seemingly unrelated phenomena, from our never-ending culture wars to the existence of kosher laws to 4chan to mermaids.
ARTS AND IDEAS
Saudi Arabia seeks to become a cultural hub
Led by its de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia is taking steps to transform itself from a cultural backwater into a cinematic powerhouse in the Middle East, Vivian Yee and Ben Hubbard report for The Times.
The push reflects profound shifts in the creative industries across the Arab world, where former cultural hubs like Cairo, Beirut, Damascus and Baghdad have been battered by conflicts, financial meltdowns and state failures. In many ways, the region’s cultural mantle is up for grabs, and Saudi Arabia is lavishly spending to seize it.
To build the new industry, the Saudis are tapping their country’s oil wealth to fund homegrown productions, sponsor Saudi filmmakers to study abroad and establish domestic training schools, soundstages and studios. The government is financing similar initiatives to foster Saudi visual artists, musicians and chefs.
“It’s our time to shine here in Saudi Arabia,” said Mona Khashoggi, a Saudi film and theater producer. A government official recently announced that the kingdom would support the production of 100 films by 2030, showering new projects with permits, prestige and financing.
Read more about Saudi Arabia’s cultural moves.