The leader of Iraq’s Sairoon Coalition, Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. (Photo credit: ALAA AL-MARJANI/REUTERS)
Influential Iraqi political figure Muqtada al-Sadr announced his departure from Iraqi politics on 15 June following the mass resignation of Sadrist members of parliament (MPs) in Iraq on 12 June.
State media reported that Al-Sadr wants to step away from politics to avoid associating with “corrupt” politicians.
This leaves the political situation in Iraq with further uncertainty after eight months of failure to form a new government following recent elections.
The elections were subject to controversy, with allegations of meddling by the US and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states.
The vacant seats will be filled by runner-up election candidates, altering the power balance in parliament, and allowing negotiations for government formation to operate under different power dynamics.
In mid-May, Al-Sadr 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, Al-Sadr 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.
Al-Sadr is aligned with the Sunni Muslim Sovereignty Alliance and the KDP, both of which oppose the CF.
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.
This essentially gave Al-Sadr the chance to be a part of a majority bloc that can agree on a candidate. However, the Shia cleric has remained adamant about not forming an alliance with the CF.
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 “will boil over” if the political crisis is not resolved.