On August 19th, Iraqi political parties agreed on establishing a core alliance in an attempt to form a new government.
The agreement was reached after a meeting between Muqtada al-Sadr, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, Ammar Hakim, the leader of the Iraqi National Wisdom Movement, and members of the al-Watanyah party, as cited by PressTV.
A statement was released following the talks. “We agreed today to form a core for an alliance seeking to form a parliamentary alliance that can form the government. We have decided at this meeting to open up to our other partners to contribute together in the formation of this (largest) alliance,” the statement read.
The alliance, according to the statement was formed in the interest of the nation. It also confirmed the blocs’ commitment to taking an anti-sectarian approach to the process of forming a new government.
Cited by Al Jazeera Kadhim al-Shimmary, a leading figure in the Wataniyya bloc confirmed the decision: “We had a successful meeting and agreed to form a coalition among us.
The decision was made after the Iraqi Supreme Court made its decision to ratify the outcome of the contested May 12th general elections in the country early on the same day. Sadr and his coalition were given a constitutional deadline of 90 days to form a government.
The election votes had to recounted, following a parliamentary decision in June, after a government report accused the electoral commission of ignoring widespread violations. The recount went ahead as planned and showed little difference from the initial counting. Sadr still won the central role in forming the future government.
As reported by PressTV, Sadr’s coalition, Sa’iroun, held 54 seats in the 329-seat parliament. Abadi, whose coalition, the Victory Alliance, had won only 42 seats to become third, formed an alliance with Sa’iroun in the aftermath of the election. Together with the Hikma bloc, which won only 19 seats, and Allawi’s Wataniyya bloc, which won 21 seats, the potential alliance has 137 seats – 28 seats short of a majority bloc.
Iraqi analyst Jassim Moussavi, cited by Al Jazeera, claims that despite the fact that they do not have enough seats, the alliance was likely to form a strong bloc that could place it in a position to gain support from other groups in order to form the new government. “These blocs have a lot in common including their anti-sectarian approach and inclination towards garnering strong relations with all regional powers,” Moussavi was cited by Al Jazeera.
The parties now have three months to form the government. To that end, they need to hold their first session and elect a new speaker. Afterwards they will have one month to elect a president. Past that point, the president will ask the largest bloc in the parliament to appoint a Prime Minister, who will form a government.
Prime Minister Abadi also called for the process of forming a new a government to officially begin. “I call on his Excellency, the President of the Republic, to initiate calling on the Council of Representatives to convene as soon as possible within the constitutionally designated time and to begin procedures of parliamentary presidency and for the President of the Republic to assign the representative of the biggest parliamentary bloc to form the next government,” he said in a televised speech on August 19th. He further hoped “for it to proceed with its work and duties for serving Iraq and meeting the aspirations of Iraqis for stability and a free dignified life.”
The announcement of the forming of a core alliance comes after weeks of protests by Iraqis. The protests started on July 8th and lasted until August 6th, leaving at least 14 demonstrators killed and hundreds wounded. The protests were also influenced by Iran’s decision to decrease energy exports to Iraq, which led to black outs during the summer heat wave.
The protests, focused in southern Iraq, have been organized to denounce corruption, unemployment, and the perceived inadequate provision of public services, such as water and electricity. The protests contributed to Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi’s decision to fire Minister of Electricity Qasem Al-Fahdawi on July 29.
The protests have stopped for now. That is most likely due to two reasons: On August 4th, Al Jazeera quoted Mushriq Fariji, 38 a protestor, according to whom “Many people want to come out, but what happened on July 20 has scared so many,” referring to a demonstration in Tahrir Square last month in which clashes erupted and tear gas was used against the demonstrators.
The other reason is most likely hope that the new anti-sectarian government will bring about change.
The fight against ISIS continues, even though the movement’s defeat was announced in December 2017, sleeper cells, especially in Northern Iraq still threaten civilians. An ISIS attack on the Kurdistan regional government headquarters on July 23rd left two gunman and a hostage killed, however there is no threat of the group’s revival.
Economically Iraq may benefit from rising oil prices, however the protests will slow down the country’s growth prospects. The lack of a government reinforced the stagnation, however if a government is quickly elected the situation in Iraq may be salvaged.