Monday, 2 August, 2021 – 06:30
Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr delivers a statement in support of early elections outside of his home in Najaf city, on February 10, 2021. (AFP)Baghdad – Asharq Al-Awsat
Head of the State of Law coalition, former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has been pressing for holding the parliamentary elections on time in October.
He has made a series of tweets to press his demand, even though he will not personally run in the polls, but his coalition will.
Maliki is not the only Shiite figure hoping the elections will be held as scheduled. Head of the al-Fatah coalition, Hadi al-Ameri has also been making the same demand.
Shiite forces are eager for the elections to be held on time, viewing them as an opportunity to make political gains after prominent cleric Moqtada al-Sadr announced his withdrawal from the race.
Sadr has notably only withdrawn from the elections, not announced a boycott. Moreover, he has not officially approached authorities to pull out from the polls, meaning the mercurial cleric could always still opt to participate.
Before he potentially makes such a move, Shiite powers are sending out the message that they are ready to step in and are capable of filling the void left behind the cleric. Ameri in particular has kicked off his electoral campaign, eyeing a sweep of parliament and the ultimate goal of naming a prime minister, who in Iraq must be a Sunni figure.
Ameri’s electoral agenda offers nothing new to the Iraqis, prompting criticism even from his own supporters. He made the same promises he and others had made in previous elections, none of which have been fulfilled.
Ameri prioritized the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq, supporting armed formations and the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), tackling unemployment and providing job opportunities, addressing water problems with neighboring countries, and others.
Meanwhile, efforts are underway to persuade Sadr to reverse his withdrawal decision. As it stands, he is waging a silent battle with his rival ideologues, who are hoping to win over the majority of his popular base during the elections.
The cleric and his rivals follow the same principles and ideological teachings of Mohammed Baqir al-Sadr, who was executed by the former regime in 1980, and Mohammed Mohammed Sadeq al-Sadr, Moqtada’s father who was assassinated in 1999.
An Iraqi politician, who is close to both sides, told Asharq Al-Awsat that various blocs and leaderships are attempting to persuade Sadr to go back on his withdrawal.
Others, who are seen as Sadr’s rival ideologues, are promoting the idea that they would win enough seats in parliament to allow them to name a new prime minister. Among these figures is Maliki. They believe that the opportunity is available for them to isolate Sadr.
The politician added, however, that Sadr views himself as the sole heir of the Sadr ideological legacy, meaning whoever veers away from his movement will no longer represent the Sadrists and their views.
This rivalry goes beyond elections. Differences exist over the US troop deployment.
Sadr had declared his support to the agreement reached last month between Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi and Washington over their pullout, while the armed factions expressed their opposition to it.