Iraq has not been able to form a government since parliamentary elections last October.
More than nine months after the general elections held in Iraq in October 2021, political leaders were unable to form a government.
The country’s political crisis reached a boiling point as protesters, mostly supporters of the Shia leader, emerged Muqtada al-Sadrone of the most powerful people in the country, stormed Iraq’s parliament on Wednesday to protest corruption and one of the candidates for prime minister.
Al-Sadr ordered his parliamentary bloc to resign en masse in June after parliament failed to form a government.
Here’s a look at what happened and why Iraq is facing a potential season of political chaos.
Why was Parliament stormed?
- The protesters, estimated at hundreds, are rejecting the nomination of a rival Iran-backed alliance’s candidate for prime minister.
- Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, a former minister and former provincial governor, is the prime minister’s choice of pro-Iranian coordination framework. Al-Sadr has rejected his candidacy.
- “Al-Sudani provides just a very convenient excuse for Muqtada al-Sadr to express his displeasure with the overall coordination framework and political system in Iraq,” Marsin Alshamary, a research fellow at Harvard Kennedy School, told Al Jazeera. “He would have done that if someone else had been nominated. Indeed, Al-Sudani is one of the least controversial figures in the coordination framework.”
- The demonstrators carried portraits of al-Sadr and chanted slogans in his support. just her vacated Parliament and went home after asking her to do so on Twitter, saying her message had been received.
Why couldn’t politicians form a government?
- Since Iraq Elections in October 2021Talks to form a new government have stalled.
- Al-Sadr’s bloc won 74 seats, making it the largest faction in parliament with 329 seats.
- After a strong performance, al-Sadr reiterated his commitment to form a “national majority government” representing various sects and ethnic groups such as Sunni Muslims and Kurds, but essentially marginalizing the Shia coordination framework that included an old enemy, the former prime minister Nouri, includes al-Maliki.
- The Fatah alliance – the political bloc of the pro-Iran People’s Mobilization Forces – suffered a devastating defeat in the elections.
- By defending his Sunni and Kurdish allies, al-Sadr continued down the path of alienation from groups like Fatah. Some pro-Iranian militias have warned of an escalation of violence if Sunni and Kurdish groups join al-Sadr’s camp.
Why did Sadr withdraw from Parliament?
- After nearly eight months of repeated failures by the Iraqi parliament to form a government, al-Sadr withdrew his parliamentary bloc and appointed the 74 Sadrist Movement to legislate step back.
- For months, al-Sadr, who says he is a critic of both Iranian and American influence in Iraq, has portrayed his movement and its allies as a majority and placed them in opposition to Iran-backed groups.
- But despite his nationalist rhetoric, not everyone agrees that al-Sadr is staunchly anti-Iranian: “The truth is that there isn’t a single political party in Iraq, whether Shia, Sunni or Kurdish, that doesn’t have some kind of affiliation with Iran,” Alshamary said.
- If a “majority national government” had succeeded, it would have been an unprecedented departure from that of Iraq Muhasasa (quota-based) regulation based on ethnosectarian power-sharing between Shia, Sunni and Kurdish groups.
- It would also have dealt a serious blow to Iran’s political influence in Iraq, as Iran typically supports Shia groups that have joined with other Shia Muslims to form a majority.
- Despite al-Sadr’s election victory, Iraqi law requires a two-thirds supermajority to elect a president, which he did not have. A government cannot be formed until a President is elected.
Can we expect more protests in the summer?
- By ordering his bloc’s resignation, al-Sadr paved the way for the coordination framework to form a government as they occupied many of those seats. According to the law, when an MP resigns, the second-place candidate in the election fills the vacant seat.
- Analysts warn that a rift between Iraq’s Shia groups would be unprecedented, and if either al-Sadr or the coordination framework were pushed aside, a backlash would be almost inevitable.
- The Sadrists’ resignation extended Iraq’s political crisis when the process of filling the vacant seats led to a new wave of intense debates and protests.
- Wednesday’s incident and al-Sadr’s subsequent show of control over his supporters was an implicit warning to the coordination framework of a possible escalation if a government headed by al-Sudani is formed.
- Al-Sadr has shown that he cannot be ignored by Iraqi politicians even when his supporters are not in parliament, and he can rally protesters to make his point.