Iraq parliament swears in new members after Antichrist’s walkout

Iraq parliament swears in new members after Sadrist walkout | | AW

BAGHDAD –

Iraq’s parliament swore in dozens of new MPs on Thursday, replacing 73 members loyal to powerful Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, strengthening the power of rival Iran-backed Shia factions in the assembly.

The 73 had resigned collectively earlier this month amid a prolonged political impasse over the formation of the country’s next government. The unprecedented walkout, based on a request from Sadr, threw Iraq into further uncertainty, reshuffling the political deck following the October 10 elections, which gave him the biggest bloc in parliament.

Although he emerged as a winner, Sadr had been locked in a power struggle with internal Shia rivals backed by Iran and was unable to cobble together a coalition that can form a majority government.

Two weeks ago, he ordered lawmakers from his parliamentary bloc to resign in a bid to break the eight-month impasse. The move threw Iraq’s political landscape into disarray.

According to Iraqi laws, if any seat in parliament becomes vacant, the candidate who obtained the second highest number of votes in their electoral district would replace them. In this case, it made Sadr’s opponents from the so-called Coordination Framework, a coalition led by Iran-backed Shia parties and their allies, the majority with around 122 seats.

It puts Sadr out of parliament for the first time since 2005, and allows pro-Iranian factions to determine the make-up of the next government.

“Today, the first step has been completed, which is the replacement deputies taking the oath,” said MP Muhammad Saadoun Sayhod, from the Rule of Law coalition represented in the Framework.

“We will now start the process of electing the president and naming the prime minister from the Coordination Framework,” he said, adding he expected the formation of a new government to begin soon.

There was no immediate reaction from Sadr to the swearing in of new MPs. There remain concerns the political deadlock could lead to renewed protests and street clashes between supporters of Sadr and their Shia rivals.

Even though parliament is in recess, lawmakers mostly from the Framework alliance called for an extraordinary session Thursday to vote on the new members. Sixty-four MPs were sworn in, while nine other replacements did not attend.

On Wednesday, Sadr accused Iranian proxies of political meddling. He also accused them of applying pressure against newly-elected political independents and allies of his Sadrist bloc.

He called on parliamentarians not to succumb to pressure.

“I call on blocs to stand bravely for the sake of reform and saving the nation and not to give in to sectarian pressures, as they are bubbles which will disappear,” he said in a statement.

Munaf al-Musawi, a political analyst and director of the Baghdad Centre for Strategic Studies, said the fight for government posts will now begin. Once a government is formed, he said Sadr’s supporters could take to the streets, leading to clashes with Shia rivals.

“What comes next is more difficult,” he said. With the Coordination Framework and its allies now in control of parliament, Sadr and his allies will pay the price for their walkout, he added.

Iraq’s election was held several months earlier than expected, in response to mass protests that broke out in late 2019 which saw tens of thousands rally against endemic corruption, poor services and unemployment.

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