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Armed Clash Looms between Sadr, PMF Factions in Wake of Iraq Elections

Armed Clash Looms between Sadr, PMF Factions in Wake of Iraq Elections

Wednesday, 13 October, 2021 - 05:45
Cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, right, displays his ink-stained finger that shows he voted, at a polling center during the parliamentary elections in Najaf, Iraq, Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021. (AP)

An armed clash appears to be looming on the horizon between Shiite powers in Iraq in wake of the unexpected results of Sunday’s parliamentary elections.

The Sadrist movement, of influential Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, emerged as the victor, with his bloc claiming 73 seats in parliament. The official results have yet to be released.

As the votes were being tallied, other Shiite mainly pro-Iran powers were preempting the results by reaching understandings over how to handle the outcome of the elections. These powers met at the residence of the State of Law coalition leader, former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

These powers are leaning towards reaching understandings with other political forces with the purpose of forming the largest parliamentary bloc to counter Sadr’s influence.

These powers include the Shiite forces that were the surprise losers in the elections in what was an unexpected blow. They include the pro-Iran Fatah Alliance, headed by Hadi al-Ameri, and Hikma movement, of Ammar al-Hakim.

Informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that these blocs, and others, have held talks on two possible scenarios in the post-elections period. The first calls for holding talks with other blocs, including Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish forces, and the second calls for rejecting the results of the polls.

Regarding the first option, the goal would be the formation of the largest parliamentary bloc that would exceed Sadr’s 73 seats. However, differences still linger between them since the 2010 elections. These blocs have, however, received a push with Maliki’s surprise gains in the elections. He won 37 seats, a jump from the 26 he won in the 2018 polls.

In contrast, the Fatah Alliance won only 14 seats, a shocking drop from the 47 it won in 2018. The Hikma movement did not fare better, it won only two seats, losing 20 from the 22 it claimed in 2018.

Elsewhere among the Shiite forces, former Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi was another loser, who only won two seats, while head of the pro-Iran Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), Faleh al-Fayyad did not win any.

In wake of these developments, the gatherers at Maliki’s residence are now searching for allies to counterbalance Sadr’s gains. They may turn to the Kurdistan Democratic Party, of Masoud Barzani, and the Sunni Progress Party, of parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi.

As for the second scenario, the losing Shiite parties, especially the Fatah Alliance, may reject the results of the elections. In fact, several Shiite parties released a statement on Tuesday dismissing the results as a “scam”.

They did say that they will appeal the results, but open and implicit threats have already been made, which may lead to an armed clash in the future.

“We will appeal against the results and we reject them. We will take all available measures to prevent the manipulation of votes,” said the statement also signed by Abadi’s party.

Sadr was quick to respond by announcing that he wanted the formation of a government of independents that would not be swayed by foreign influence. He also stressed that he wanted to limit the possession of weapons in the country to the state.

One of PMF’s most powerful factions, the Hezbollah Brigades, rejected the election as “the biggest scam and rip-off the Iraqi people have been subjected to in modern history.”

“The PMF brothers are the main targets,” its spokesman Abu Ali al-Askari claimed.

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