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