Iraq’s Sunni parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi intends to tender his resignation when the legislature meets on Wednesday.
He announced the move on Sunday, taking the political scene by surprise and undermining the Shiite pro-Iran Coordination Framework’s efforts to announce a new alliance that would form a new government to end the country’s monthslong political impasse.
Member of the Framework and leader of the Hikma movement, Ammar al-Hakim called on Halbousi on Tuesday to withdraw his resignation.
Halbousi had sought to resign months ago.
During a political event in Baghdad, he explained that he wanted to step down because he used to be part of a political alliance that had called for the formation of a national majority government. That alliance included Sadrist movement leader, influential cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and Sunni and Kurdish parties.
Now, Halbousi is part of efforts to form a new coalition that is demanding the formation of a government through consensus.
The Framework has been carrying out efforts to establish the new “management of state” coalition and has even approached Sadr’s former allies. The cleric was asked to join but he ignored the call.
Several political parties, starting with the Framework, have expressed their skepticism over Halbousi’s resignation, speculating that it was just a political maneuver to undermine the grouping and ensure his re-election to his post with a vast majority.
A Sunni official described as “very smart” Halbousi’s move to resign, noting that the Framework was going to sack him as soon as parliament convened because of his alliance with Sadr that had led to divisions among Shiites.
Speaking on condition of anonymity to Asharq Al-Awsat, the official explained that had the alliance with Sadr been successful, the Shiites would have lost their majority in parliament.
“The Framework would have never allowed this,” he stressed.
Moreover, the official said the Framework then worked on encouraging Halbousi’s rivals to “rebel against him” and even name an alternative for the position of parliament speaker.
However, Halbousi was one step ahead of them and joined the new alliance with the Framework. This move not only thwarted the plan to dismiss him, but also forces those who sought his sacking to back his re-appointment as speaker because his resignation would lead to the collapse of the new alliance before it is even officially announced, explained the official.
A leading member of the Framework confirmed that Halbousi’s resignation announcement throttled the group’s plan to unveil the new alliance.
“The Framework has returned to square one with Halbousi’s announcement,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat on condition of anonymity.
“Leaders of Shiite parties are frustrated by how complicated the situation is,” he admitted.
Media professor at the Al-Iraqia University Dr. Fadel al-Badrani said Halbousi made a “smart and bold” move by announcing his resignation.
“He made it at the right moment because the Framework had constantly said that it would seek to withdraw confidence from the speaker,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.
The resignation was announced just as the Framework was on the verge of revealing the new coalition that would include the majority of political forces in parliament. The coalition needs the speaker to be in place for it to succeed, he said.
The Framework, therefore, has no choice but to reject the resignation and throw its support behind Halbousi remaining in his post, he added.