On Thursday, the page of the presence of the Sadrist movement in the Iraqi parliament was turned over after dozens of new MPs took the constitutional oath as replacements for the Sadrist MPs who had resigned earlier at the request of their leader Muqtada al-Sadr.
Observers unanimously agreed that the next stage of the political scene in Iraq, “difficult to expect”, may be similar to what happened after the 2018 elections, when a government was formed that only lasted one year against the impact of popular protests.
The Sadrist bloc, consisting of 73 deputies, resigned on the 12th of this month after a months-long stalemate regarding the formation of a new government consisting of winners, as al-Sadr echoed, which was met by calls from the forces of the Iranian-backed coordination framework to form a “consensual” government that includes everyone.
The number of deputies who took the constitutional oath, Thursday, reached 64, and nine deputies were absent for unknown reasons, according to the Parliament’s Information Office.
The coordination framework won 40 seats in the Sadrist movement, according to a census prepared by AFP based on figures issued by the Electoral Commission.
This means that the number of deputies for the coordination framework has increased to about 130, which makes it the largest force within the House of Representatives and allows it to appoint a prime minister and form a government in alliance with other parliamentary blocs.
The framework includes Shiite blocs, most notably State of Law, led by former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, and the Fatah bloc, which represents the pro-Iranian Popular Mobilization factions.
In the opinion of Falah al-Mishal, a researcher in Iraqi political affairs, “what happened today does not foretell the possibility of forming a new government soon.”
Al-Mishal told Al-Hurra website that “there are major problems, both within the framework and its competing parties, and outside it as well, related to the other Kurdish and Sunni blocs that were allied with al-Sadr.”
Al-Mishaal adds that “these differences will certainly delay the formation of the government and the vote on choosing a new president of the republic.”
Parliament failed three times to elect a new president, due to the inability to achieve the required two-thirds quorum in Parliament to pass the president, which plunged the country into a constitutional vacuum without a looming solution soon.
In addition, “Al-Sadr’s exit from the scene will increase the complexity, in light of the presence of a stressful street filled with crises and the lost necessities of life, and this will complicate the scene further.”
Al-Sadr tried during the last period to form a “majority” government with the “Save a Homeland” coalition, which includes Sunnis and Kurds. As for his opponents within the pro-Iranian coordination framework, they want a consensual government that includes all Shiite forces, as is the custom.
On Wednesday, Al-Sadr accused Tehran’s “arms” of practicing “political violations” against the Iraqi judiciary in an attempt to “turn them in their favour.”
Al-Sadr stressed that these forces, which he did not explicitly name, are “trying to exert pressure against other political blocs, whether independents or non-Shiite blocs,” with the approaching date of an emergency session of Parliament.
On the other hand, political analyst Ghaleb Al-Damay said in an interview with Al-Hurra that “the chances of the framework have become very easy to form a government, despite the presence of internal differences within its ranks.”
Al-Daami says: “In the end, the framework is controlled externally, not internally, and therefore the driving forces can distribute roles and solve these problems,” referring to Iran.
Al-Daami believes that the coordination framework will form a new government “easily and impose its will on the Sunnis and the Kurds, and perhaps this will cause new crises,” adding that “the framework already has a Shiite crisis with the Sadrist movement, and there will be a crisis with the Sunnis and the Kurds, which means that the next government will It will have many obstacles.”
Al-Damamy criticized Al-Sadr’s recent move to withdraw from Parliament, adding that “the Sadrist movement handed over its weapons and power in Parliament and the government and presented it on a silver platter to its opponents.”
He adds that “it would have been more useful for al-Sadr not to withdraw and instead turn to the opposition in parliament, after he failed to form a majority government, and therefore remains strong because he has committees and the position of deputy speaker of parliament and others.”
However, Al-Damamy believes that the real reason for Al-Sadr’s move is that he “wanted not to be part of a failed government and perhaps lose more supporters.”
In an analysis published on Wednesday on the website of the Atlantic Council think tank, the former US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iran and Iraq, Andrew Peake, said that al-Sadr’s decision to abandon his electoral victory and the collapse of his efforts to form a new government is a “gift to Iran.”
Beck added that the move dealt a blow to ordinary Iraqis who demonstrated in 2019 to end the sectarian political system and were killed as a result.
It is also a blow to the United States, which had an opportunity to help significantly reduce the malign Iranian influence that has increased in Iraq since after 2003, according to Beck.
He concluded by saying, “This step was a loss for Washington, but it was a greater loss for the Iraqis and the majority who voted for change.”
In the same context, the political analyst Al-Dawamy points out that “what the Sadrist movement depends on if the new government fails, and it is clear that it will fail, is to go to support the expected protests against it.”
Al-Mishaal agrees with this proposition and believes that “all readings and indications confirm that any government formed by the coordination framework will be similar to the government of Adel Abdul-Mahdi, or perhaps worse.”
Al-Mishaal added, “Currently we see the recycling of the same political forces and their production in a very bad way, and for this there will be very strong and angry popular reactions.”
Al-Sadr’s departure from the government formation process may “throw the Iraqi political scene into the unknown,” according to an analysis published by the “Washington Post” and prepared by Renad Mansour, a researcher at the Carnegie Middle East Center and a fellow at Danish Aarhus University, Benedict Robin Dcruz.
The analysis quotes interviews conducted by the two researchers with prominent figures within the Sadr group saying that the leader of the Sadrist movement may now focus on leading the protests against his opponents.
He adds that senior Sadrist leaders believe that their main opponents, such as al-Maliki and leaders of the Popular Mobilization Forces, are unlikely to get enough support from other parties to form a government in his absence.
He continues, “Even if Sadr’s opponents succeeded in forming a government, the Sadrist leaders say that the Sadrists can overthrow it through protests.”
However, the researchers believe that Sadr’s popularity on the street is no longer what it used to be, especially among protesters, who believe that Sadr’s followers violently suppressed protests in 2020.
Therefore, this matter may complicate al-Sadr’s efforts to return to the street again, and the Sadrists may find it difficult to win over the protests in their favour, according to the analysis.
The Washington Post analysis concludes by saying that “Al-Sadr may soon feel that this is the wrong time to leave Parliament and return to the streets.”