BAGHDAD – Iraqi political analysts described Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s decision Thursday not to participate in next elections as an attempt to evade the repercussions of the health and electricity crises, considering that his political movement was directly involved in managing both the health and electricity departments.
Iraqis see Sadr’s decision as a ploy aimed at distancing himself from popular anger over hospital fires and frequent power outages,
Sadr has become the target of widespread popular ire. The public has come to regard the movement he leads as no different from the rest of the militias that took control of Iraq by force of arms. Like other forces participating in the rule of Iraq, his movement is also seen as mired in corruption.
Sadr sought to hold the government responsible for the health and electricity crises by calling on Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi to conduct an in-depth investigation into the failure of both sectors and thereafter to announce its results.
However, Iraq watchers say that this approach is no longer credible. Relying on conspiracy theories and placing responsibility on unknown opponents have all become old threadbare tactics that cannot conceal the truth about al-Sadr, his movement and its role in the crisis.
Analysts downplayed Sadr’s threat to withdraw, considering that his failure to run would not prevent his faction from eventually seeking to dominate the upcoming elections despite all the disasters it caused.
Sadr said he would not participate in the elections scheduled for October and that he was withdrawing his support of the government, urging those responsible for the Nasiriyah fire to be held accountable.
The angry reactions to the hospital blaze led to the resignation of Health Minister Hassan al-Tamimi, who is affiliated with the Sadrist movement.
An Iraqi parliamentarian, who preferred not to be named, said that Sadr is acting based on the principle that “war is deception” in his dealings with his Shia opponents. The MP added that Sadr is trying through his withdrawal to cover up the crimes of the hospital conflagrations that took place under his faction’s watch.
Talking to The Arab Weekly, the MP did not rule out that Sadr could cancel his decision when he was certain that the matter had been forgotten.
He added, “If that prediction comes true, Sadr will have established a new principle, which is that elections are a hoax.”
Iraqi political analyst Rahim al-Kaabi told The Arab Weekly that “it is not the first time that al-Sadr has hinted at the possibility of withdrawing from the elections and that he did not in any case submit a formal request for withdrawal to the Electoral Commission.
The Sadrist movement has been seeking to win more seats in the upcoming early elections in order to be tasked with the choosing the prime minister in the next session, according to previous statements by Sadr.
According to leaks circulating in the local media, Sadr has been trying to nominate his cousin Jaafar al-Sadr, the current Iraqi ambassador to Britain, for the position of prime minister.
The Sadr-backed “Sairoon” coalition led the last parliamentary elections in 2018, winning 54 out of 329 seats.
Parliamentary elections are scheduled under a new electoral law that reduces the size of districts and eliminates list-based voting in favour of a system structured on individual candidacies.