Head of the Hikma Movement in Iraq, Ammar al-Hakim caused a stir among his allies in the Shiite Coordination Framework when he proposed the extension of Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi's term as a solution to the current political impasse in the country.
Prominent Framework member, former PM Nouri al-Maliki has expressed his reservations over the extension.
During a speech to mark the Eid Al-Adha holiday among the Shiite community in Iraq on Sunday, Hakim said: “Introducing radical change in no longer necessary (…) rather, we must confront the major dangers lurking around us and in the region.”
Hakim has no intention in joining the new government, but he is very active in its formation and is keen that it is formed “as soon as possible.”
Moreover, he is confident that any settlement that excludes the Framework’s main Shiite rival, influential cleric Moqatada al-Sadr, is doomed to fail.
Hakim is opting for the safer option where the Shiite factions would avoid a major rift with Sadr’s sizable popular base.
Sadr’s lawmakers had quit parliament last month over the political deadlock and in attempt to speed up government formation efforts. His rivals have yet to make any progress in their efforts.
An informed source told Asharq Al-Awsat that the talks among the Framework since Sadr’s resignation have led to the emergence of a position that is wary of excluding the cleric from a new government.
Maliki will have to adjust with this position even though he believes that he would be able to contain the “consequences of excluding the Sadrists.”
Moreover, cracks have started to emerge in the Framework, which is no longer as united as it used to be since Sadr’s resignation, added the source.
The resignation has allowed members of the Framework, and for the first time since the October parliamentary elections, to review their priorities and interests for the new government.
Meanwhile, Sadr’s supporters are gearing up to hold mass prayers on Friday in a show of force against their rivals.
In remarks that are likely to provoke the cleric’s supporters, Qais al-Khazali, leader of the Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq, claimed that Sadr’s withdrawal from the political process will speed up the government formation process.
He said on Sunday that Sadr wasted nine months in attempting to form a government to no avail. His withdrawal has therefore created a new opportunity to form a cabinet.
He claimed that there were no delays in forming a government, noting that parliament is in recess and is set to convene after the Adha holiday.
“Only then will it show whether there is a delay or not,” he charged.
Khazali also noted messages from regional countries and major powers that “clearly support the formation of a national unity government.”
Sadr had been pushing for the establishment of a majority government that excludes the Framework.
Khazali also ignored the ongoing dispute within the Framework over the naming of a prime minister, saying the “only challenge facing the formation of the government is the election of a president.”
Currently, the two main Kurdish parties are in disagreement over the election.
“The dispute between the Kurdish political forces is deeper than that between the Shiites,” said Khazali, adding that the Framework would support the agreement over the president reached by the Kurdish parties.
He acknowledged differences within the Framework over the naming of a PM, but he stressed that they “did not amount to being a real problem.”
In contrast to Hakim’s position, he expressed his rejection of extending the term of the current caretaker cabinet or introducing a reshuffle.