Shia leader Moqtada al-Sadr’s new coalition does not have the numbers to pick president and prime minister, but new possibilities are opening up. Iran is trying to undermine the coalition. For Saad Salloum, this process could lead the country away from sectarianism and to a country based on the concepts of community, citizenship, and national identity.
Baghdad (AsiaNews) – The Sadrist movement is trying to form a bloc in parliament to overcome traditional sectarian divisions. The goal is to unite Shias, Sunnis and Kurds so as to create a majority, form a government and elect the country’s next president.
Led by Shia leader Moqtada al-Sadr, the Movement won the largest number of seats (75) in last year’s elections. Last Friday, it created a coalition called “Let’s save the fatherland (Enqadh Watan).
Although its path forward is still long and troubled, it could be a turning point for Iraq; ending months of stalemate would contribute to building a country based on “peace and fraternity” for all its citizens.
Compared to the past, when the Sadrist movement sought the support of other Shia factions, backed by Iran, this time it is seeking an alliance with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (31 seats) and the Sunni Coalition of Sovereignty (62 seats).
At present, no one has the votes to elect the head of state, which requires a two-thirds majority. However, the six-months stalemate is complicating the future since it is preventing the formation of a fully operational government to deal with country’s current challenges: international crises, the economy, corruption, and post-war reconstruction.
For Saad Salloum, a journalist and associate professor at the College of Political Sciences of al-Mustanṣiriyya University in Baghdad, one of the oldest in the world, this is a positive sign that could herald a change from sectarianism to the “concept of community”.
Speaking to AsiaNews, the Iraqi academic explains that “it is very important” to change the “political system” set up in 2003, following the US invasion, which was “based on groups – Shias, Sunnis, Yazidis, etc. – at the exclusion of the concept of community”.
“This has led to parties that represent their respective groups, pursuing only their claims and demands, preventing the emergence of a true national identity and leaving no room for the concept of citizenship.”
This is why “every move aimed at rejecting this system and philosophy is positive. We must imagine a political majority and not groups; every sign that goes in this direction of reform must be seen in a positive way.”
The main rival of the Sadrist Movement and its coalition is the Shia-dominated, pro-Iran Coordination Framework (64 seats), which still hopes to play a role in forming the new government.
Historically, Shias have had the largest number of seats and usually formed the government. This time however the divisions between Sadrists and pro-Iranian factions are too wide to bridge and a deal does not seem to be in the cards.
Because of this, the radical Moqtada al-Sadr is reaching out to Sunnis and Kurds to form a bloc capable of overcoming sectarian differences.
To this end, the Sadrist-led coalition “Let’s save the fatherland” named Riber Ahmad, Iraqi Kurdistan Interior Minister, for the presidency, and Jafar al-Sadr, Muqtada’s cousin and Iraqi ambassador to the United Kingdom, for the post of prime minister.
Last Saturday, coalition members called for a parliamentary vote for the head of state but the move was unsuccessful.
The coalition needs a two-thirds majority (220 seats), but only 202 MPs were present for the vote. And the three parties’ coalition could count on a maximum of 168 seats, far from the required number.
Now they are looking for votes but it is an uphill battle as Iran tries to split the Shias and create divisions within the coalition between Sunnis and Kurds.