“The Iraqi people were waiting for steps to be announced by the strong and popular Shia cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr to form a national and reformist government and not a consensual government,” Jinan Ali, an activist who participated in the Tishreen (October) protests in Iraq in 2019, told Al-Ahram Weekly.
The protests forced changes in the Iraqi elections law and Independent Higher Electoral Commission and obliged the government of former prime minister Adel Abdel-Mahdi to resign in December 2019.
“One of the demands of the Tishreen protests was to put an end to the policy of muhasasa [power sharing by sectarian quota] or what they call ‘consensual government’ that has achieved nothing since the first general elections in 2006,” Ali said.
“This policy has led to chaos and corruption and increased the percentage of Iraqis living under the poverty line,” she added.
Ali is not optimistic that the kind of government the protesters wanted to see will now be formed after the resignation of the Sadrist Bloc, the largest bloc in the Iraqi parliament after last year’s elections, and the formation of the Save the Nation Alliance with the Siyada (sovereignty) Alliance of Parliamentary Speaker Mohamed Al-Halbousi, a Sunni Muslim, and the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) of Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani.
The Coordination Framework (CF) led by former prime minister Nuri Al-Maliki includes all Iraq’s Shia political parties and movements except the Sadrist Bloc, and the Sunni Al-Azm Alliance and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) of late Iraqi president Jalal Talbani wants to form a consensual government with it.
However, the deadlock began when CF MPs boycotted the presidential election session in the parliament, and there was no quorum for a vote to take place. The MPs said that the Kurds should agree on one candidate for the presidency, occupied by the PUK since 2006 and now insisted on by the KDP. Up to now, the Kurds have still not agreed on a candidate.
The Sadrist Bloc’s 73 MPs resigned to pave the way for the CF to form a government after it became the largest bloc in the parliament after their resignation.
Following the resignations, the second-place vote winner from last October’s elections in each now vacant district took the empty seat in parliament last Thursday and swore the parliamentary oath in an extraordinary session called by the CF.
There was a quorum, although Al-Sadr called on all the blocs to “stand bravely for the sake of reform and the saving of the nation and not to give in to sectarian pressures, as they are bubbles which will disappear.” Yet his Sunni and Kurdish allies attended the session.
The CF began meetings with Al-Sadr allies Siyada, the KDP, and independent MPs to negotiate the formation of a new government called “the government of services” in their statements.
“I do not expect the CF to be able to form a new government because the demands of the Siyada Alliance of Al-Halbousi and the KPD of Barzani are too hard to be fulfilled,” Abdel-Ameer Majar, a political analyst, told the Weekly.
“The Iraqi street could not accept those demands, and if the CF makes concessions, the people will stand up against them. The people who carried out the Tishreen Revolution and put an end to sectarian power-sharing will not accept it,” he said.
Many Iraqi politicians have confirmed that there cannot be a successful new government in Iraq without the Sadrist Bloc, among them Ayad Allawi, a former prime minister.
He was quoted as saying that “proceeding with the formation of a new government without the presence of the Sadrist Bloc that won the elections, proving that it is not looking for positions as much as for the formation of a national government, will only make matters more complicated.”
“Although Muqtada Al-Sadr has withdrawn from the political process, he is still directing the situation in Iraq,” said Ahmed Omer, an Iraqi teacher who spoke to the Weekly, adding that “Al-Sadr’s withdrawal looks like a trap for others. At the end of this there could be early general elections.”
Samira Auf, a Baghdad housewife, told the Weekly that “the political blocs behave as if there were no people suffering from unemployment, high food prices, dust storms, climate change, electricity shortages, shortages of water, and many other problems.”
“They are just looking to their own benefits and agendas,” she added.
Al-Sadr said in a tweet that his bloc had resigned as a “sacrifice” for the Iraqi nation. “He said this in order to end the political deadlock in the country, because others had stated that his bloc was hindering the formation of a new government,” according to Iraqi media reports.
But it seems that the deadlock will continue as long as the Kurds do not agree on one candidate for the presidency and the CF does not agree on a candidate for prime minister.
The parliament will hold its first session after the Eid by the end of its recess, when another nine new MPs will be sworn in. In the earlier extraordinary session only 64 replacement MPs arrived to swear the oath.
A version of this article appears in print in the 30 June, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.