Who will form the next Iraqi government?


The Iraqi elections on October 10 bolstered the parliamentary strength of mercurial Shiite preacher Moqtada Sadr and saw a sharp decline in that of his opponents, the pro-Iranian alliance Hached al-Chaabi, according to preliminary results.

A final ballot tally, staged to appease the youth-led anti-government protests that began in 2019, is expected in the coming weeks, but so far no bloc has a clear mandate.

This means that the many political parties will engage in lengthy negotiations to form alliances and appoint a new prime minister.

– What alliances are possible? –

Harith Hasan, a non-resident senior researcher at the Carnegie Middle East Center, generally sees two main potential scenarios.

The first is the revival of a “Shiite alliance” between Sadr, who has criticized Iranian influence, and the Hashed, a former paramilitary network now integrated into the regular security forces.

Results so far show that Sadr has won more than 70 of the 329 parliamentary seats.

This coalition option would see Sadr agree to “a new power-sharing deal with a compromise candidate” as prime minister, Hasan said.

There would also be agreement “on certain ‘principles’ of reform, including the future and structure of Hached al-Chaabi,” he said.

Any compromise candidate for prime minister will need the tacit blessing of Tehran and Washington, sworn enemies who are both allies of Baghdad.

According to preliminary results, the Conquest Alliance (Fatah), the political wing of multiparty Hashed, emerged from the elections with only about 15 seats in parliament.

In the last bedroom, it had 48, making it the second largest block.

A source in Fatah told AFP that some of its leaders “suggested to a representative of the Sadrists to enter into an alliance” with them and other Shiite entities.

A second scenario would see Sadr align himself with Massoud Barzani, the longtime leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party that rules the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq.

Mohammed al-Halbussi, the former speaker of parliament who cultivates an image of dynamism and leads a construction boom in his hometown of Ramadi, is also said to be part of that coalition, alongside smaller groups.

This scenario is only possible if Sadr “has not succumbed to pressure” from Hashed, said Hasan, who does not rule out “some kind of chaos or armed conflict” in the country where virtually all political actors have links with armed groups.

Despite the loss of seats, Hashed is still expected to carry weight in parliament thanks to the support of members who claim to be independent and to deals with former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who held the post between 2006 and 2014.

Ally of Hashed and a figure close to Iran, Maliki won more than 30 seats.

– Who will be prime minister?

No name has yet emerged to replace Mustafa al-Kadhemi.

Sadr had said he would appoint the next prime minister, but whoever is ultimately chosen “must be a consensus candidate,” said Lahib Higel, senior analyst on Iraq at the International Crisis Group.

It could be Kadhemi himself.

Well connected to both Tehran and Washington, he brought forward elections, initially scheduled for 2022, in response to anti-government protests against rampant corruption, unemployment and failing public services.

Without a proper base and without a seat in parliament, Kadhemi could be a convenient choice “because to some extent you will be shedding some of the responsibility when the face of government is someone else,” Higel said. .

“He has a chance.

According to Hasan, “Kadhemi still has a good chance of staying in power.”

– What about Iran’s role?

The loss of seats by Fatah, very close to Iran, will not necessarily weaken Tehran’s role in Iraq.

“Iran has had influence in Iraq since 2003,” years before the Hashed alliance first entered parliament in 2018, Higel said.

According to Hasan, Iran has three main interests in its neighbor: ending the US military presence of 2,500 people and ensuring that there are no threats from Iraq; support Hached; and keep the Iraqi market open to products from Iran’s crippled economy.

Hasan added that Iran “does not see Sadr as an enemy, but they are mindful of the risk of seeing him dominate” the Shiite scene.

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