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Sadr’s Election Boycott Raises Fears of Inter-Shiite Fighting in Iraq

Sadr’s Election Boycott Raises Fears of Inter-Shiite Fighting in Iraq

Wednesday, 11 August, 2021 - 06:15
Iraqi police keep watch during a demonstration at Tahrir Square in Baghdad on December 21, 2020. (AFP)

The countdown for the October 10 parliamentary elections began in Iraq amid the boycott of influential Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

Several blocs and coalitions have started their electoral campaigns, including the Rule of Law coalition of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Shiite parties have kicked off their campaigns, while Sunni and Kurdish coalitions have yet to start theirs despite the various meetings held between their leaders.

An independent Iraqi politician and former MP said it has become evident that Sadr will not retract his withdrawal.

“This has led to serious concerns among Shiites of impending inter-Shiite fighting even if a new government is formed after the elections,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.

He explained that with Sadr out of the equation, new balances of power within parliament may lead to tensions among the various parties that could escalate into fighting,

He noted that strenuous efforts were exerted to convince Sadr to change his position, but he has so far resisted them, prompting speculation over the motives behind the cleric’s stance.

Some sides believe that he has a plan that has yet to materialize that would see him not only have a say in the nomination of a new prime minister or claim ministerial portfolios for himself, but go beyond that, especially if the balance of power sways in favor of his great rival, the Fatah alliance or even Maliki, added the official.

It appears that Maliki is eyeing the position of prime minister in spite of his previous assertion that he no longer aspires for that seat.

“Sadr’s rivals are aware of his influence and therefore, he would be difficult to ignore in any new political equation,” remarked the former MP.

Moreover, some sides have been proven wrong in believing that the cleric’s supporters will grow divided with his withdrawal from the elections, he added.

Sadr, he explained, has come up with a plan to prevent these divisions.

Meanwhile, Maliki stressed that the elections will be held as scheduled “regardless of the threats”, saying that the democratic process should be respected.

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