A months-long effort to create a new government in Iraq fell into disarray after the influential Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr asked all 73 lawmakers in his political bloc to withdraw from parliament on Sunday. They followed through that day, with the Parliament Speaker accepting their request. Sadr’s candidate for Prime Minister stepped back from vying for the role, too.
The withdrawal significantly disrupts the make-up of the 329-seat legislative body—likely giving more parliamentary power to pro-Iran parties. It could also help align Sadr’s party with Iraqi protesters who have since 2019 condemned the country’s political system altogether, if the move is viewed as a rejection of the status quo.
Experts say the political paralysis since elections in October is partly due to long simmering discontent among Iraqis who feel the political system prioritizes keeping elites in power over providing essential services such as access to electricity and clean water. In the short term, it’s also caused by Sadr’s inability to push through political reforms that would have consolidated his party’s power.
Following the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, Iraq’s political system was set up under U.S. auspices as a consensus government that provides a seat at the table for all major political parties. “That may sound good in theory but what it amounted to was just a division of the spoils and political power, so corruption ran rampant,” says David Romano, a professor of Middle East politics at Missouri State University. “No one really had to do anything or perform because they were guaranteed their share of power every election just by virtue of coming from major ethno-sectarian communities.”
Sadr, who is viewed largely as an Iraqi nationalist and populist leader, has argued that his call to withdraw his supporters from parliament is in service of the Iraqi people. …read more
Source:: Time – World