Al Sadr: No room for Al Ma­liki in Iraq’s gov­ern­ment

The National - News - - NEWS WORLD - MINA ALDROUBI

There is no place for for­mer prime min­is­ter Nouri Al Ma­liki in the coali­tion to form Iraq’s next gov­ern­ment, said a spokesman for the re­cent elec­tion’s largest po­lit­i­cal bloc.

“Nouri Al Ma­liki is not wel­come to join the coali­tion,” Dhiaa Al As­sadi, a close aide to Shi­ite cleric Mo­q­tada Al Sadr, told The Na­tional.

In last month’s par­lia­men­tary elec­tions the elec­toral lists led by na­tion­al­ist Mr Al Sadr and Ira­nian-backed mili­tia chief Hadi Al Amiri won the largest num­ber of seats. The two lead­ers on Wed­nes­day an­nounced their in­ten­tion to form an al­liance.

They called on other po­lit­i­cal groups to join them in a coali­tion. Notably ab­sent from that in­vi­ta­tion was Mr Al Ma­liki.

It ap­pears to be a de­ci­sive set­back for Mr Al Ma­liki, who in the past man­aged to cling to power de­spite ris­ing un­pop­u­lar­ity.

Mr Al Ma­liki be­came prime min­is­ter in 2006 with the bless­ing of the United States and Iran. But he rapidly alien­ated the coun­try’s Sunni and Kur­dish mi­nori­ties by shut­ting them out of key se­cu­rity po­si­tions and un­der­min­ing power-shar­ing agree­ments.

Dur­ing the 2010 elec­tions, a sec­u­lar bloc headed by vice pres­i­dent Ayad Allawi won the most seats in par­lia­ment. But Tehran backed Mr Al Ma­liki to re­main in of­fice.

He formed a “na­tional unity” gov­ern­ment with the help of Mr Al Sadr but was forced to step down in 2014 after the rout of Iraq’s mil­i­tary and po­lice units by ISIS. He took up the cer­e­mo­nial role of vice pres­i­dent and was re­placed as premier by fel­low Dawa Party mem­ber Haider Al Abadi.

Mr Al Ma­liki, as gen­eral sec­re­tary of the Dawa party, has re­tained po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence, although his State of Law coali­tion per­formed be­low ex­pec­ta­tions in the re­cent elec­tions, win­ning just 26 seats.

The blocs led by Mr Al Sadr and Mr Amiri con­trol 101 seats, short of the 165 re­quired to form a ma­jor­ity.

Mr Al Sadr’s Sairoun al­liance, which in­cludes the Com­mu­nist Party and sec­u­lar can­di­dates, won 54 seats, while Mr Amiri’s Fatah coali­tion of Shi­ite paramil­i­taries won 47 seats. Prime Min­is­ter Haider Al Abadi’s Vic­tory al­liance took 42 seats.

“[Mr Al Sadr] has al­ways wel­comed Dr Al Abadi to join his coali­tion,” Mr Al As­sadi said.

But for Mr Al Ma­liki, even his for­mer backers in Tehran may have given up on him. “Nouri Al Ma­liki was Iran’s best per­son but they ac­cept that he’s not part of the next gov­ern­ment be­cause of the in­sta­bil­ity caused,” Re­nad Man­sour, se­nior re­search fel­low at Lon­don’s Chatham House, told The Na­tional.

Mr Al Sadr built his name as the head of the Me­hdi Army mili­tia, which fought against the US oc­cu­pa­tion us­ing weapons prob­a­bly sup­plied by the Ira­ni­ans. But he has re­mained a staunch na­tion­al­ist, crit­i­cal of Ira­nian in­ter­fer­ence in Iraq.

Iran backs Mr Al Amiri, a mili­tia leader who spent two decades fight­ing for­mer dic­ta­tor Sad­dam Hus­sein from Iran.

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