May 18, 2022 – 2:16 PM News Code : 1258502 Source : Al Waght NewsLink:
While Iraq now passed seventh month after the parliamentary elections, Muqtada al-Sadr continues to bring surprises the complicated political process in the country. Over the past few months he proposed forming the national majority government, gave 40-day deadline to the rival Shiite Coordination Framework (SCF) to form a new cabinet, and also gave the independent lawmakers two weeks to form government with his assistance.
AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): While Iraq now passed seventh month after the parliamentary elections, Muqtada al-Sadr continues to bring surprises the complicated political process in the country. Over the past few months he proposed forming the national majority government, gave 40-day deadline to the rival Shiite Coordination Framework (SCF) to form a new cabinet, and also gave the independent lawmakers two weeks to form government with his assistance.
Now in his latest remarks, al-Sadr, admitting that he has failed to form a national majority government, said that his Sadrist Movement is ready to shift role to “national opposition” and leave the government formation process to other parties. The plan to turn shift to opposition role within a month could actually complicate the scene of Iraq’s politics more than ever. To shed some light on this complexity, we need to first discuss his shift stand initiatives since October elections.
From majority government to national opposition
Since the initial hours of the release of the election results by the election commission, al-Sadr as the victorious party confidently talked about his intention to form a government of majority in coalition with the Sunnis and Kurds. Finally, the National Salvation Coalition was formed by al-Sadr, Kurdistan Democratic Party led by Masoud Barzani, and the Sunni Sovereignty bloc led by former parliament speaker Mohammad al-Halbousi and the prominent businessman Khamis Khanjar on March 23 at a press conference held by Hasan al-Adhari of Sadrist Movement.
Even before its official announcement, the coalition had succeeded in taking the first step in forming a new government by electing Mohammad al-Halbousi as speaker of parliament, but in the second stage, the election of the president failed to go ahead as sessions failed to reach two-third quorum. After failing to reach the quorum of the parliament on March 23 and 30, al-Sadr issued a statement giving the rival Shiite factions 40 days to form a new cabinet.
But after al-Sadr’s 40-day deadline expired, on May 4, 2022, he presented an initiative to entrust the formation of a new government to at least 40 independent members of parliament. In his new plan, the leader of the Sadrist Movement called on the independent parliamentarians to form a new government within 15 days. He stressed that the tripartite coalition will vote for this new government but the Sadrist faction will not join it.
Now, as the 15-day opportunity for independents draws to a close, the powerful Shiite leader has unveiled a new plan to turn the bloc under his leadership into a national opposition. He stated that he had not succeeded in forming a “national majority government”, adding that there was only one way left and that was to become a national opposition. He further noted that the duration of the opposition will not be less than 30 days, adding that if the parties and other parliamentary factions, including those who had formed an alliance with the faction, can form a cabinet, that would be fine, Otherwise, he will make another decision. His recent remarks mean that he will probably announce a newer initiative after his one-month opportunity to form a new government expires.
Any scenario except for coalescing with SCF
Al-Sadr’s frustration with the formation of a national majority government and his new plan to turn his bloc into a national opposition can be analyzed in two ways. First, Sadr’s new plan is rooted in the acceptance of the field realities of Iraqi politics and governance. In recent months, he has not been able to face the fact that it is not possible to form a national majority government without the consent of the rival Shiite bloc, but now it seems that he has finally accepted this fact.
Second, his has a record of retreat, one time in 2012 and one time in 2016. While eyeing to become the top man of the Iraqi politics, al-Sadr does not want to fully shoulder the full responsibility of the administration of the country and this feeds his opposition role tendency. At the same time, he wishes to be viewed as the reformer and savior of the nation.
This means that all of his initiatives have a common point: accepting any scenario except for SCF rise to power. In fact, although al-Sadr has announced that he wants to form the national opposition or give a 40-day deadline to the Shiites to coordinate the formation of the government, behind the scenes he does not want his Shiite rivals to reach the cabinet formation stage. He is in no way capable of accepting that there is a more powerful faction among the Shiites than his. Therefore, if his one-month plan succeeds in forming a government, any future initiative would be based on distancing the SCF from the government.
Change of equations of new government formation
After Al-Sadr’s decision to turn into the opposition, here is a picture of the Iraqi politics post-election. On the first side are the Barzanis, al-Halbousi, Khanjar, and some independent representatives who have previously been allies of the al-Sadr in forming his coalition. On the second side are SCF, their Kurdish allies–the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan– and some independent representatives that together make up at least one-third, at t least 110 of the 329 members, of the Iraqi parliament. On the third side are the independent representatives who in practice will probably have 40 seats after joining the dual coalitions. But the fourth side in such a situation is the Sadrist Movement with about 75 seats as the national opposition.
Given the makeup of forces and the parties present in the Iraqi political arena, it can be clearly stated that al-Sadr’s opposition status and non-interference in the formation of the government is more like a political bureaucracy. With the current political makeup, now coalition can even get close to formation of a new government. Though on the paper, there is a tangible change, in practice the rival forces powerfully face each other. The only scenario that can pave the way for Iraq to form a new government is SCF agreement with the al-Sadr coalition. Indeed, there is no impossibility in the world of politics, in practice an agreement between the two not only does not seem possible but also even if these factions want such an agreement, al-Sadr will probably block it.
With the political observers for months predicting impossibility of formation of a new government for a single side, the only way out of the current stalemate is inclusive national dialogue for a national unity government that covers all parties like post-2003 tradition. A government not a result of loss of one and victory of another side. To put it another way, return to win-win principle is the only means out of the current crisis.