Former Iraqi FM says a government without Sadr will ‘not enjoy stability’
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Any Iraqi government formed without the participation of powerful Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr will be unstable, the former foreign minister of Iraq told Rudaw on Thursday, while describing the withdrawal of the Sadrist Movement from the legislative body as a “strategic mistake.”
Iraq’s political scene has witnessed a series of developments over the past week which came after months of inactivity. The government formation process took a step forward after the pro-Iran Coordination Framework, the ruling Kurdish parties, and the Sunni blocs formed Running the State Coalition.
The coalition seeks to form Iraq’s next cabinet and put an end to the prolonged political deadlock that has plagued the country over the past year. If successful, the cabinet would become Iraq’s first government without the participation of the Sadrists, the kingmaker of three out of Iraq’s five parliamentary elections since 2005.
“A delegation of the main parties were supposed to visit Muqtada al-Sadr to make another attempt at convincing him to approve the government, to not stand against it, or to be a part of it, because any government without him [Sadr], take it from me, will not enjoy any stability, and I stand by that opinion,” Hoshyar Zebari, Iraq’s former foreign minister and senior politburo member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), told Rudaw’s Diyar Kurda on Thursday in Washington.
The Sadrist Movement formed a tripartite alliance with the KDP and the Sunni Sovereignty Alliance following the early elections of October 2021, seeking to form a national majority government. The alliance was disbanded once the Sadrist MPs resigned from their positions in June.
“We believe the decision was a strategic mistake. They should not have walked out. They have great popular power, and they could have protected that power in the parliament,” said Zebari, adding that the KDP does not regret its previous alliance with the Sadrists and the Sunnis.
Rejecting the Coordination Framework’s attempts at forming a government based on national consensus, Sadrist supporters stormed Baghdad’s Green Zone in late July, staging a sit-in for over a month to protest the candidacy of Mohammed Shia’ al-Sudani for Iraq’s premiership. The protests culminated in deadly clashes between Sadrist supporters and loyalist Iran-backed militias, which killed at least 30 in the span of 24 hours.
Fresh demonstrations have been held by Sadrist supporters over the past week, attempting to block the Iraqi parliament from holding its first session in three months, and rejecting the Running the State Coalition’s efforts toward forming a government without Sadr.
The former foreign minister stressed that the government which the new coalition is attempting to form will not reign for long, but rather its only purpose will be to make preparations for early elections and approve of a 2023 budget, or at least a budget for the snap vote.
Disagreements within the Kurdish camp are another factor in halting the political process in Iraq, as the KDP and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) have been unable to agree on a single candidate for Iraq’s presidency, a position which the latter has held since 2005.
Zebari stated that the two parties have not been able to reach an agreement on a candidate as of yet and that Reber Ahmed remains the KDP’s sole candidate.
“The post is for the Kurdish component. It is not owned by the PUK, the KDP, or the New Generation Movement…. if it were according to the results of the elections, the KDP is the number one [Kurdish] party,” Zebari added.
The inability to agree on a single candidate for Iraq’s next president, suggests the possibility of repeating the 2018 scenario where the KDP and the PUK fielded different candidates and the position was settled in a vote in the parliament, in which the PUK’s Barham Salih emerged victorious over the KDP’s Fuad Hussein.