The decision by Muqtada al-Sadr for collective resignation of his bloc's lawmakers on June 12 left the responsibility to form a new government to the rival Shiite Coordination Framework (SCF).
AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): The decision by Muqtada al-Sadr for collective resignation of his bloc's lawmakers on June 12 left the responsibility to form a new government to the rival Shiite Coordination Framework (SCF).
In all the days after the October 10 elections, al-Sadr, forming National Salvation Coalition with the Kurds and Sunnis, demanded formation of national majority government and sidelining the SCF. But now the grand shock of al-Sadr was perhaps not expected even by the most optimistic forces and supporters of the Coordination Framework. The unbelievable issue is that despite his great stubbornness and push for national majority cabinet, al-Sadr, all of a sudden, retreated and left the arena to his rivals.
According to the ruling of the Iraqi Federal Court, issued on 14 November 2021, after the step-down of the lawmakers of the Sadrist bloc, any candidates who received the largest number of votes in the constituency of the resigned lawmakers will replace them. According to the statistics of the October elections, it can now be clearly stated that, both quantitatively and qualitatively, the initiative is taken by the SCF. The bloc held its first post-Sadr meeting last week.
SCF taking the initiative
Although return of al-Sadr is likely as a scenario with regard to the past records, it is unlikely as much. In recent days, however, some of the leaders of the Shiite bloc, such as Ammar al-Hakim, have explicitly called for the return of the resigned MPs and a change in the position of al-Sadr. What the SCF has emphasized from the beginning is the formation of a national unity government, not isolation of one coalition and domination of the other over the government. Therefore, in the first place, the SCF welcomes the return of the Sadrists but at the same time prepares to accept responsibility for managing the government formation process without the rival coalition.
Should the Sadrist MPs decide not to return, their seats will be filled by the reserve candidates. In such case, the Emtidad Movement, belonging to the protestors of 2019, would see increase in its seats from 9 to 13 seats, Fatah bloc from 17 to 31, Progressive bloc led by parliament speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi from 37 to 39, National Forces bloc led by ex-PM Haider al-Abadi and al-Hakim from 4 to 11 seats, State of Law led by ex-PM Nouri al-Maliki from 33 to 39 seats, Determination bloc from 5 to 7, Ishraqat Kanoun from 6 to 7, National Treaty led by Faleh al-Fayadh from 4 to 8 seats, Laws Movement from 1 to 6, National Approach from 1 to 4, and the independents from 43 to 61 seats.
The total number of the reserve candidates replacing the Sadrists shows the improvement of SCF place and power qualitatively and quantitatively and its becoming the largest coalition in the fifth parliament. Preliminary estimates suggest that SCF seats are now 120 and addition of Determination bloc, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Babylon Movement, and the independents would increase their seats to 176. Although this number of seats is not enough to hold a parliamentary session to elect the president due to the need for quorum of presence of two-thirds of the lawmakers, the import issue is that in the new situation the SCF has the initiative.
First SCF step towards national unity government
Following the resignation, the SCF held its first meeting at the home of chief of the the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) al-Fayadh to discuss the current situation. Representatives of Determination bloc led by Muthana al-Samiraee, the PUK led by Bafel Talabani, the Christian Babylon Movement led by Rayan al-Kaldani, and a number of independents joined the meeting.
But the unprecedented event was invitation of the Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi. The move stirred speculations about the possibility of a debate between the Shiites and al-Kadhimi on formation of a new government. The SCF, however, stated that they discussed the political developments and ways to speed up completion of the constitutional process with participation of all national forces.
The SCF invited all political forces to participate in the dialogue, adding that it is "ready to open the door to all parties out of the belief that the future government should be a strong and powerful one and serve and protect the unity and sovereignty of the country and contribute to maintaining Baghdad's position and role in the region."
The meeting was so massively reflected by media and analysts that the SCF had to issue a complementary statement, rejecting the reports and rumors that there are differences in the ranks of the allies. The statement suggested that the bloc has not so far discussed any distribution of the posts in the future government and such news are aimed at disruption of political scene.
The SCF statement showed that unlike the Sadrist Movement, it sticks to the idea of national unity government with the presence of all political forces even now that it leads. So, if Sadrist departure is certain, the SCF is expected to meet more with the other factions to end the current stalemate.
SCF and comprises to remnants of National Salvation coalition
In the post-Sadr situation, the key obstacle ahead of the new government would be al-Sadr's allies. According to estimates, even if al-Sadr's resignation is definite, the Iraqi Kurdistan Democratic Party, led by Massoud Barzani, and Sovereignty bloc, led by al-Halbousi and Khamis al-Khanjar, will hold about 98 seats in parliament. Given the seats of minorities close to Barzani and a few independent MPs allied to the National Salvationcoalition, it seems that al-Sadr's former allies still have the ability to block the quorum needed to president election session of the parliament.
As stated in the past, the SCF has no restrictions to talk with Barzani and the Sovereignty bloc, and is currently awaiting a final decision from these sides to discuss new government. Evidence now suggests that in the next few days, Barzani will meet al-Halbousi and Khanjar in a bid to persuade al-Sadr to rethink his decision.
Still, al-Sadr's former allies seem to have prepared themselves for the future situation. The KDP, for example, changed its negotiation team in Baghdad to be led by Fuad Hussein and Bangen Rekani, both with friendly ties to the all-Shiite SCF. Additionally, some KDP representatives like Mohammad Sadiq said that the SCF would form a new coalition. "If such a coalition is formed and the SCF accepts the Kurdistan Democratic Party's conditions, we will join the new coalition," he said. This is the first stance demonstrating al-Sadr former allies' preparation for any new coalition in the future.