Iraq PM and firebrand cleric Sadr agree to an alliance … but who will lead country?

Alliance increases the chances of forming a government after weeks of political tensions

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 June, 2018, 12:24pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 June, 2018, 9:52pm

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and nationalist cleric Moqtada Sadr have formed an alliance in a bid to create a new government after May polls.

Sadr’s joint list with communists won 54 seats in the legislative elections to become the biggest bloc in Iraq’s 329-seat parliament, while Abadi’s bloc came in third, scooping just 42 seats.

On Saturday Abadi travelled to the Shiite shrine city of Najaf to meet Sadr.

After three hours of talks they issued a joint statement announcing they had set up a coalition.

The statement said their alliance “transcends sectarianism and ethnic” issues “to speed up the formation of the new government and agree on the principles which serve the aspirations of our people”.

A source close to Sadr’s Marching Towards Reform alliance said the thorniest issue was who would fill the post of prime minister in the new government.

Abadi would like to keep the job but is meeting resistance from rivals who beat his bloc in the election.

Saturday’s joint statement did not mention an alliance Sadr formed earlier this month with two other lists, ahead of a manual recount ordered by Iraq’s Supreme Court amid allegations of fraud.

Sadr presents himself as a non-sectarian nationalist opposed to both the United States and Iran’s influence over his country,

Earlier this month Sadr, a former militia leader, reached a coalition agreement with the pro-Iranian former fighters under Hadi al-Ameri, whose list came second in the election with 47 seats.

Before that, Sadr formed an alliance with Shiite Ammar al-Hakim’s Al-Hikma list, which won 19 seats, and the secular outgoing vice-president Iyad Allawi, whose list was comprised largely of Sunnis and secured 21 seats.

Iraqis voted on May 12 to elect the country’s 329-member parliament, in the first vote since Baghdad declared victory over Islamic State militants in December.

It marked the first time an electronic voting system was used in Iraq, and was followed by accusations of violations and irregularities in some provinces.

A fire earlier this month at a storage site housing half of Baghdad’s ballot boxes had raised tensions. Security forces said it was deliberate and made arrests but said most ballots were saved. No party has been identified as responsible yet.

The recount will slow down the process as the new parliament and government cannot be formed until the results are officially ratified by Iraq’s Supreme Federal Court.

Additional reporting by Tribune News Service and Reuters