Lawmakers belonging to the Sadrist Movement presented their resignations to the speaker of parliament on 12 June, in an apparent effort to end eight months of political deadlock.
The lawmakers stepped down at the request of their leader, Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who has found himself unable to form a government since last October’s elections.
On a video posted on social media, the head of the Sadrist Movement’s parliamentary bloc, Hassan al-Azari, is shown submitting the letters of resignation of 75 deputies to Iraqi Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi, who approved and signed them.
Al-Sadr’s cousin, Mohammad Jaafar al-Sadr, who was the movement’s candidate for the post of Iraqi prime minister, also withdrew his bid.
“I had accepted to be nominated for the national and reformist project of Muqtada al-Sadr. But it’s time to withdraw,” he announced on social media.
On 9 June, the Shia cleric first brought up the threat of the mass resignation.
“If the Sadrist movement is hindering the formation of the government, all the members of the bloc are ready to resign … [Lawmakers] in the Sadrist bloc shall write their resignation letters, which will be submitted once they are instructed to do so in the upcoming days,” Al-Sadr said.
In mid-May he announced his party had “no choice but to join the opposition for at least 30 days,” marking the second time his bloc stepped aside from negotiations to form a government.
In early April he opened the door for the Coordination Framework (CF) to lead the negotiations.
The CF is an ad hoc group of Shia parties with close ties to the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), including the State of Law Coalition and the Fatah Alliance. These parties lost by a large margin to the Sadrist bloc last year, with many alleging fraud in the results.
The deadline for the Iraqi parliament to elect a new president passed in early April, as a result of several boycotts of the sessions summoned by Al-Sadr.
On 4 May, the CF issued a proposal to form a new government, saying that the new Iraqi prime minister should be elected by all Shia political groups, rather than only by the Sadrist Movement.
Following the mass resignation of Sadrist lawmakers, CF leader Ali al-Fatlawi told Shafaq News that the group had convened in the offices of Hadi al-Ameri, the head of Fatah Alliance.
“They usually convene on a nearly daily basis. However, today’s event prompts major tactical changes,” he said.
Other CF members have called the decision by Al-Sadr a “political maneuver.”
“A political maneuver is the only rational explanation of this decision. Al-Sadr sought to inject a fresh momentum into an otherwise static situation,” Member of the State of Law Coalition, Thaer Makhif, said.
Last month, the UN envoy to Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, warned that the streets of Iraq “are about to boil over” if the political crisis is not resolved.