Political chaos in Iraq: Why did protesters storm Parliament? | Explanatory news

Iraq has not been able to form a government since parliamentary elections were held in October last year.

More than nine months after Iraq held parliamentary elections in October 2021, political leaders have been unable to form a government.

The country’s political crisis reached boiling point when demonstrators, most of them supporters of Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr, one of the country’s most powerful figures, stormed the Iraqi parliament on Wednesday to protest against corruption and one of the candidates for prime minister. .

Al-Sadr had ordered his parliamentary bloc to resign collectively in June after parliament failed to form a government.

Here’s a look at what happened, and why Iraq faces a potential season of political chaos.

Why storm Parliament?

  • The demonstrators, who number in the hundreds, are opposing the nomination of a rival coalition backed by Iran for the post of prime minister.
  • Muhammad Shi’a al-Sudani, a former minister and former regional governor, is the choice of the pro-Iran coordination framework for the first show. Al-Sadr rejected his candidacy.
  • “Al-Sudani represents just a very appropriate excuse for Muqtada al-Sadr to express his displeasure with the entire coordination framework and political system in Iraq,” Marcin Al-Shammari, a researcher at Harvard Kennedy School, told Al Jazeera. “He would have done this if anyone else had been nominated. Al-Sudani actually represents one of the least controversial figures from the coordination framework.”
  • The demonstrators carried pictures of al-Sadr and chanted slogans in support of him. They only acquitted Parliament and went home after being asked to do so on Twitter, saying their letter had been received.
Iraqi protesters
Iraqi protesters break into the parliament building in Baghdad [File: Ali Abdul Hassan/AP]

Why politicians were unable to form a government?

  • Since the Iraqi elections in October 2021, talks to form a new government have stalled.
  • Sadr’s bloc won 74 seats, making it the largest faction in the 329-seat parliament.
  • After a strong performance, al-Sadr reiterated his commitment to form a “national majority government” that represented different sects and ethnicities, such as Sunni Muslims and Kurds, but essentially sidelined the Shiite coordination framework, which includes an old enemy, former Prime Minister Nouri. Al-Maliki.
  • The Fatah Alliance – the political bloc of the pro-Iranian Popular Mobilization Forces – suffered a heavy loss in the elections.
  • By defending his Sunni and Kurdish allies, al-Sadr has gone further by alienating groups such as Fatah. Some pro-Iranian militias have warned of an escalation of violence if Sunni and Kurdish groups join Sadr’s camp.

Why Sadr withdrew from Parliament?

  • Nearly eight months after the Iraqi parliament’s repeated failure to form a government, al-Sadr withdrew his parliamentary bloc, ordering the 74 Sadrist MPs to resign.
  • For several months, Sadr, who says he is critical of Iranian and US influence in Iraq, has cast his movement and its allies as the majority, pitting it against Iranian-backed groups.
  • However, despite his nationalist rhetoric, not everyone agrees that al-Sadr is completely anti-Iranian: “The truth in Iraq, there is not a single political party, whether Shiite, Sunni or Kurdish, that does not have some kind of association,” Al-Shammari said.
  • If the “national majority government” had succeeded, it would have been an unprecedented deviation from the Iraqi muhassasa (quota-based) arrangement, which is based on power-sharing among ethno-sectarian groups among Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish groups.
  • It would also have dealt a major blow to Iranian political influence in Iraq, where Iran usually supports Shiite groups that have come together with other Shiite Muslims to form a majority.
  • Despite al-Sadr’s election victory, Iraqi law requires an overwhelming two-thirds majority to elect a president he did not have. The government can only be formed after a president has been elected.

Do we expect more protests during the summer?

  • By ordering the resignation of his bloc, al-Sadr opened the way for the coordination framework to form a government, as they filled many of those seats. By law, if a representative resigns, the candidate who ranks second in the election takes the empty seat.
  • Analysts warn that the rift between Iraq’s Shiite groups will be unprecedented, and if Sadr or the coordination framework is pushed aside, a backlash will be almost inevitable.
  • The resignation of the Sadrist movement led to an extension of the political crisis in Iraq, as the process of filling the vacant seats led to a new wave of controversy and intense protests.
  • Wednesday’s incident, and Al-Sadr’s later showing to control his followers, carried an implicit warning to the coordination framework of a possible escalation if a government was formed with Al-Sudani at its head.
  • Al-Sadr showed that even if his supporters did not sit in parliament, Iraqi politicians could not ignore him, and he could gather protesters to make his point.

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