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Analysis

A Look at Power Blocs in Road to New Iraqi Government

Thursday 21 October 2021
A Look at Power Blocs in Road to New Iraqi Government

Alwaght- The results of the Iraqi parliamentary election announced by the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) shattered the predictions about the future Iraqi government, making the political analysts have various views on the coalitions and parties in the path of formation of new parliamentary factions, the alliances of the majority and the minority, and their main political discourse.

According to the results, Sadrist Movement came first with 73 seats. Its leader Muqtada al-Sadr in a fiery speech on October 11, a day after the election, said: “We thank God that blessed the reforms with the largest bloc, an Iraqi, not Eastern or Western, bloc.

Fatah Coalition, led by Hadi al-Amiri, lost two-thirds of its seats, gaining only 17. The spokesman to the Fatah coalition said: “We would not accept these false results no matter what the cost is.”

There were other major surprises, with the State of Law coalition led by former Prime Minsiter Nouri al-Maliki winning 34 seats and the Progress Party led by Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi winning 37 seats. In comparison, the strength of the coalition of nationalist forces led by Ammar al-Hakim and former PM Haidar al-Abadi sharply diminished, winning only 5 seats. Among the Kurds, the Gorran Party, or Movement for Change, lost all its seats. The Emtidad Movement, which sparked protests in October 2019, managed to reserve 9 seats in parliament, and the number of seats of the independents may rise to 30.

Shiite power blocs

In the Iraqi political structure, since 2003, the formation of governments has constantly required the coalition of parliamentary forces, and the formation of a cabinet with party majority has not been possible. The president grants the right of nominating a PM to a coalition or party that can hold 165 signatures forming a majority. This necessitates both a coalition inside the Shiite camp, which has been the mainstay of the Iraqi government since 2003 due to the majority in population, and a coalition of the Shiite bloc with Sunni and Kurdish parties.

Usually, Kurds and Sunnis wait for the outcome of the intra-Shiite negotiations before entering into any alliance or negotiating the formation of a government. But among the Shiites, there are four potential power blocs:

First bloc is the Sadrist Movement which is the largest parliamentary alliance. Leaders of the movement rely on his speech and Twitter messages for their stances on what comes next. Al-Sadr has formed a negotiation team led by Hasan al-Atari, Nabil al-Turfi, and Hakim al-Zamili. The influential Shiite leader said that the team has a full mandate regarding the political and parliamentary coalitions. The team contacted the Sunni and Kurdish leaders to discuss cooperation opportunities, informed sources said.

The second bloc is the State of Law coalition. It quickly engaged in talks and supported Shiite Coordination Framework (SCF). Observers say that the coalition is trying to attract the alliances protesting the vote results especially Fatah.

The SCF was founded after Mustafa al-Kadhimi took office in 2020. Since its foundation, it held 38 sessions, taking important decisions related to government and the political status. The decisions included new electoral law, reforming the federal court, and holding early election.

The third bloc is Fatah. Although the bloc lost part of its seats and now has only 17, before the elections it funded several independents who will join them. The bloc also has Christian minority seats that will increase its seats to nearly 30.

On the other hand, the proximity to the Shiite clergy and the very successful record of Fatah in maintaining the security and unity of Iraq have given a special and key role to this bloc in the Iraqi developments. Fatah's support for either of the two major Shiite rivals, Sadrist Movment and the State of law, is able to help them form a large and powerful force in parliament.

Both the Sadrists and the State of Law have little chance of forming the largest bloc and need negotiations to achieve it. The smaller parties will try to secure the highest possible advantages in the distribution of posts before committing to each of them. It should be noted that some parties, such as the National Wisdom Movement, have won few seats but have a strong popular base. Ammar al-Hakim is seen as the face of moderate thought in the Shiite politics, and for this reason both sides need his support.

The fourth bloc can be formed from the parties born from the protest movement. With 6 seats, they hope they can attract a number of the independents to reach 20.

Requirements of an inclusive cabinet

Presently, Sadrist Movement leads the negotiations for a majority. The movement witnessed a jump in its seats despite downturn in the turnout rate compared to 2018.

In general, a comprehensive understanding of the political landscape of al-Sadr's performance is very complex and lacks a consistent direction that enables predictions. Therefore, it is difficult to expect a clear policy from the movement after the election. However, the movement’s policies focus on protecting Iraqi sovereignty, ending regional interference in Iraq's internal affairs, expelling US troops from the country, and improving Baghdad’s relations with the Arab world.

The Sadrists promised during the election campaign that they would nominate a strong prime minister if they won. But it is likely that they would walk back from this promise in the negotiations and consultations to form the majority, especially since al-Sadr's political behavior in recent years has been based on the preference of not accepting full responsibility in the administration.

Al-Sadr is well aware of the great problems and accumulated economic crises, which is why he is cautious about accepting full responsibility for the government, as he owes the recent election victory to sitting in the position of the opposition and gaining discontented votes. This is clear in his performance. After a fatal fire in a Baghdad hospital in April he lashed out at the government for inefficiency though the health ministry post was held by his movement.

There is no doubt that the future government and the coalition leading the cabinet will face economic problems and growing public expectations in the fight against corruption and the reform of the economic structure and the improvement of living conditions, especially the employment of the younger generations and the reconstruction of areas destroyed in the anti-ISIS war. This comes while the government’s main source of income is oil exports and there are no prospects for considerable increase of incomes. Also, Iraq faces the danger of rise of ISIS sleeper cells that are apparently backed by some foreign countries with the aim of destabilizing the country and the whole region. Any home disputes can reignite this danger and toughen the job of new government.

Now it can be said that the ball is in the court of the Shiite leaders and they are facing a big and difficult test. Will they prefer group and party interests over collective and national interests? Or will they seek maximum consensus to provide the country with best possible services?  

 

Tags :

Iraq Sadr Election Fatah Economy Crisis

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