Iraq: Sadrists set for elections battle despite leader’s retreat

The Shiite movement is expected to keep its 40 parliament seats as PM Maliki remains in shaky position

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Powerful Iraqi figure Muqtada al-Sadr quitting politics will not hinder his movement’s performance in parliamentary elections scheduled for late April, analysts say.

Sadr, who comes from a prominent Shiite family and is the fourth son of the late Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Sadeq al-Sadr, made headlines in February when he said he was quitting politics and there was no longer a political entity representing him or his family.


The Sadrist movement is represented by the Ahrar Coalition, which has 40 seats in the 325-member parliament.

Amer Fayadh, dean of the political science department at al-Nahrain University in Baghdad, says Ahrar will be unaffected as Sadr’s leadership has long been “symbolic.”

His presence “was never official. He wasn’t even a member of Ahrar’s political committee,” Fayadh told Al Arabiya News.

(Design by Farwa Rizwan / Al Arabiya News)
(Design by Farwa Rizwan / Al Arabiya News)

Editor-in-chief of Al-Mada newspaper, Adnan Hussain, told Al Arabiya News that Ahrar “is entering the upcoming elections with strength.”

He expects the Sadrists to keep their 40 parliament seats, particularly since Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whom Sadr has described as a “dictator,” is in a shaky position.

“Maliki didn’t achieve anything in the past four years. On the contrary, the situation in Iraq has deteriorated,” said Hussain.

Baghdad-based TV commentator Ahmad al-Abyadh said he expects Ahrar to at least consolidate its position or win about 45 seats in the upcoming elections.

Abyadh, who is also a spokesman for the more secular Coalition of Iraq, said Ahrar attracts the poor, and its campaigning methods in the 2013 provincial elections proved to be successful as it garnered more than 60 seats.

During those elections, “it sought one candidate per constituency,” while other parties fielded more than one, which split their voters, Abyadh said.

Ahrar is “following the same organized method” for the upcoming elections, he added.

Abyadh described the mayors of Baghdad and the southern province of Maysan, both from Ahrar, as “successful,” as opposed to the “mediocre” achievements of Maliki’s State of Law bloc.

“Sadr’s latest rhetoric against Maliki, corruption, and sectarianism all stir people’s emotions in favor of Ahrar and the Sadrists,” Abyadh said.

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