All members of parliament from Muqtada al-Sadr’s Sadrist Movement resigned on Sunday, June 13, plunging Iraq into a new phase of political uncertainty. This came after Sadr gave a call for the same a few days earlier.
Hasan al-Atthari, leader of the parliamentary bloc, submitted his letter of resignation in front of the speaker of the parliament, Mohammed al-Halbousi. With 73 MPs, the Sadrist movement was the largest bloc in in the 329-member assembly
Sadr had asked legislators from his party to resign on Thursday as a way to pave the way for the formation of government in the country after failing to stitch together a majority under his coalition.
As Sadr claimed in the letter he wrote to his MPs, “this step is a sacrifice from me for the homeland and the people, to liberate them from the unknown fate, just as we have made sacrifices in the past for Iraq’s freedom, sovereignty, security, unity, and stability,” Rudaw reported.
Elections for Iraqi parliament were held in October 2021, with no group or party winning a majority. So far, attempts to form a government have failed due to disagreements of major Shia blocks in the country over the nature of the new government. Muqtada al-Sadr had promised to form a majority government, claiming that it would be more accountable.
Coordination Framework, the rival alliance in the parliament, led by former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki and composed of the Fatah Alliance and others, has instead proposed a consensus government as per the convention in post-2003 Iraq.
The Sadrist movement had formed an alliance (tripartite alliance) with Sunni Sovereignty Alliance (al-Siyada) and the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), with a total support of 180 MPs. In May, Sadr had invited independent MPs to join his coalition in a new alliance called Saving the Homeland.
To form a new government in the country, a two-third majority of parliamentary representatives must elect a new president.
The Sadrist-led alliance was victorious in the election of new speaker of the parliament in the beginning of this year, 2022. However, it had since failed to get its candidate for president, Rebar Ahmed, interior minister in the government of Iraqi Kurdistan, elected due to the repeated boycott of elections by the Coordination Framework.
After failing to form a majority out of his own bloc, Sadr had given a 40-day ultimatum in April to the Coordination Framework to form a government.
Political uncertainty continues
The resignation of Sadr’s MPs creates fresh uncertainty in Iraqi politics. As per the Iraqi constitution, after the resignation of a sitting MP, the candidate who came in second in the election wins the position. It is unclear whether this will lead to the formation of a new government or dissolution of the parliament.
This latest Sadrist decision, if final, will force a re-shuffle of the entire govt formation alliances and negotiations and it will reconfigure the balance of powers, which means the extension of post-election uncertainty period. Don’t expect a government formed soon. (4)
— Dr. Abbas Kadhim (@DrAbbasKadhim) June 12, 2022
Massoud Barzani, head of the KDP, a part of the Sadr’s alliance, did not specify his party’s position on the situation in a brief statement following the resignation of the MPs.
The elections, which saw a historically low voter turnout, were held following months of popular protests starting in October 2019. The protesters had raised the issue of the corruption of the country’s ruling classes, claiming it to be the result of Muhasasa or the sectarian quota system. The protests led to the resignation of Adil Abdul Mahdi in May 2020. This led to the present political uncertainty in the country, with Mustafa al-Kadhimi finally taking over as a caretaker prime minister. The delay in the formation of a new government would mean Kadhimi’s cabinet will continue to rule Iraq.
During his call to his party members to resign on Thursday, Sadr had said that his party will not support any “corrupt” leader, and will only participate in a national majority government which can implement real political reforms.