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Iraq Elections Reshape Political Alliances

Iraq Elections Reshape Political Alliances

Tuesday, 12 October, 2021 - 05:45
Officials work at a polling station during the 2021 parliamentary election in Baghdad. (Reuters)

A senior Iraqi politician described the initial results of the early parliamentary elections as a “political earthquake”.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on condition of anonymity, he hailed the efforts exerted by Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi to hold the polls, which he said were the “best” in that no major violations to speak of were committed.

He also praised him for fulfilling his pledge to the people to hold the elections in spite of criticism and skepticism.

Moreover, he said Kadhimi and President Barham Salih have formed a successful duo on various levels, including in tackling foreign affairs and preparing to hold the elections in a way that appears to have been the most effective in the post-Saddam period that started after his 2003 overthrow.

On the results of the polls, the official said they were not as surprising as the supporters of influential cleric Moqtada al-Sadr are claiming.

The surprise lies elsewhere because it means the reshaping of political alliances, he added.

Partial results have shown that Sadr has retained the most seats in parliament, leading in several of Iraq’s 18 provinces. He appeared to have increased his movement’s seats in the 329-member parliament from 54 in 2018 to more than 70.

An alliance of Iraqi candidates representing Shiite militias supported by neighboring Iran has emerged as the biggest loser.

On the dismal low turnout of only 41%, the senior official said it was expected and it dealt a blow to the ruling elite, expect the Sadrists.

“The low turnout was expected, especially after senior political leaders, even some founders of this ruling system, have acknowledged its failure” in the post-Saddam period, he remarked.

“The result was that the people have punished the ruling class in spite of their calls for a heavy turnout,” he noted.

The official said Sadr has obtained 80 seats in parliament, forming the largest Shiite bloc. Former parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi won the largest number of Sunni seats and the Kurdistan Democratic Party, headed by Masoud Barzani, won the largest number of Kurdish seats.

Should these blocs unite, they will form the majority and control the appointment of a new prime minister and in turn lead to control over the naming of the president and parliament speaker, he continued.

At the moment, disputes are ongoing between the main Kurdish parties over the naming of a new president, who is usually a Kurdish figure.

If the Sadrists and the Kurdistan Democratic Party form an alliance, then they may both back each other’s candidates for the posts of president and prime minister, said the senior official. The same applies should Halbousi’s Progress Party, which defeated the rival Sunni Hazm alliance headed by Khamis Khanjar, form an alliance with the Sadrists. Halbousi will back Sadr’s candidate for prime minister on condition that the speaker retain his post as head of parliament.

On the losing end of the elections, the Fatah alliance, State of Law Coalition and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan will try to forge an alliance to counterbalance the dominant bloc.

However, major disputes between them and the Iraqi forces’ general resistance to an idea of an opposition may thwart such efforts and perhaps lead to more tensions in the future, said the official.

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