The cabinet plays a huge role in Iraq. The prime minister is the decision maker and Iraq itself is a strategically important country for the region. Everyone in the region as well as international powers are waiting for the results of the consultations and bargains between the competing powers to know which party will lead the political process and who the next prime minister will be.
Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr, the leader of the Sairoon Alliance, is the luckiest because he won the largest number of parliamentary seats. Despite his victory, the results of the elections have made an already ambiguous situation even more mysterious as the victor won the largest number of seats however this is not the majority in a parliamentary system that selects a prime minister based on the calculations of the majority of seats formula. The Iraqis may have to wait for weeks before a winner is announced and until then all possibilities are open.
The significance of the phase of Haidar al-Abadi, the outgoing prime minister, is that it created a new national situation. Iraq lived through a phase of lack of weight after Saddam Hussein was toppled and during the time when the Americans were in Iraq and during Maliki’s dictatorial rule. The state and government did not have an identity except when Abadi became premier.
The government was weak as a result of the past circumstances, despite that he fought terrorism, prevented the separation of the Kurdistan region and prevented the country’s disintegration. Iraq, like all countries in the region, needs a strong political leader who stands against local militias, political powers and the pockets of terrorism and extremism whether Sunni or Shiite. He must also have the courage to confront Iran’s project, and this is the most important aspect for Iraq’s present and future and definitely the most difficult.
The victory of the Sairoon Alliance, which represents the Sadrist bloc, and winning the largest number of seats in these elections which included 7,000 candidates and the fact that parties which support Iran got the least number of votes convey the Iraqi people’s message that they are against Iran. They are not against the neighboring country Iran but against General Qassem Soleimani, the Quds Brigade, the Popular Mobilization, the Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq and the rest of the militias which Soleimani planted during the past phase of vacuum in Baghdad to control the state and the country.
A shock to Tehran
The results of the parliamentary elections came as shock to Tehran. Ali Akbar Velayati, the Iranian supreme guide’s advisor, had stated that Iran is against the Sairoon Alliance. Meanwhile, the Sairoon Alliance is pushing towards alliances that help it form a majority and thus a cabinet.
The current phase is more important for Iraq than the previous phases we’ve witnessed ever since Saddam was toppled. If the Iraqis succeed in reaching an agreement to form a cabinet that enjoys the parliament’s approval and adopts a national agenda, then the upcoming years will finalize sensitive issues pertaining to Iraq’s unity, strengthening the central authority, disbanding militias or integrating them in the armed forces, cutting ties with foreign parties and launching a developmental project that will be the first since the Iraqi-Iranian war in 1980. This is why selecting a strong prime minister is a popular request and a significant event. However, is this possible given the difficulty of forming a cabinet that must be composed of several political powers?
The consultations are mostly happening with the leader of the Sairoon Alliance Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr who is now in the lead of the political process after he previously criticized it. Sadr had criticized the spread of corruption among the political category and the weakness of national sentiment. He had also stood against sectarianism. No matter how perfect he is, forming any governmental coalition requires making concessions.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed