In the wake of the May 12th Iraqi election, in which allegations of fraud caused political tensions, the current Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and infamous cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have declared the formation of a coalition. Al-Sadr is a populist politician who surprisingly won the past election, a result which raised suspicions about the fairness of the voting equipment used. Al-Sadr and the Prime Minister met in Najaf for multiple hours before emerging with a collaborative solution to the current political climate.
The intention of the alliance is to depolarize the political situation in Iraq, allowing for cross-sectarian conversations to occur. Al-Sadr announced at a news conference that the two politicians were creating a “cross-sectarian, cross-ethnic alliance to speed up forming the next government and to agree on common points that guarantee the interests of the Iraqi people.”
Al-Sadr had previously agreed to another alliance with the second runner in the election, al-Amiri, but the Prime Minister has stated that the two alliances will not conflict with each other. Al-Amiri is a Shiite militia leader who opposed the Islamic State extremists and whose policies include the supporting of, and collaboration with, Iran. This differs from al-Sadr earlier stated beliefs.
Al-Sadr gained popularity by advocating for the rights of poor citizens and by fighting against U.S. involvement in Iraqi affairs. He has opposed corrupt government officials working tightly with Iran and the U.S. These beliefs do not align with those of the current Prime Minister or of al-Amiri. Al-Sadr did not secure enough seats in parliament by himself to create his own government, necessitating cooperation with other officials and parties.
This was the first election since Baghdad defeated the Islamic State, and therefore the results will define the nature of the newly victorious Iraqi government. Karim al-Nuri is a leader of the Fatah Alliance who has reassured America that the new alliances will not negatively impact Iraq-U.S. relations. He stated, “the new coalition is in tune with the vision of Iran and the United States,” but it is unclear exactly how the relationship will change after this shift in power.
The Fatah Alliance and the Sairoon alliance together now have 101 seats, out of 329 total. With the cooperation of the Al-Wataniya Alliance and the National Wisdom Movement, the total rises to 141. 165 is the number needed to effectively and legally form a new government.
The two most powerful Kurdish parties have reacted positively to the developments, hinting that they will be engaging in conversations about joint delegations with al-Sadr and al-Abadi. If this occurs, enough seats will have been secured for the complete reformation of the government.
This collaboration comes in the wake of politically motivated violence in Iraq, including the arson of a storage unit containing ballots and the bombing of a building containing government weapons. The members of the Fatah and Sairoon coalitions likely began working together in order to soothe tensions and avoid the start of a Civil War in the country. The Fatah alliance is pro Iran and has maintained negative sentiments towards the U.S. The Sairoon Alliance, led by al-Sadr, has presented as antagonistic to both U.S. and Iranian influences. It has also included the Iraqi Communist Party, but with recent developments, the more extreme goals of this group may not see completion.
The need for peace has caused the parties in power to reprioritize and work towards common goals that will better Iraq. Until the new government emerges, it is not certain how America and Iran will be impacted by those in power in Iraq. However, it is clear that Iraqi officials are striving towards peace and working hard to avoid any kind of war within their own nation. This pushing aside of policy difference is incredibly important, and hopefully marks a new era of stability in the country.
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