The Iraqi political crisis, explained

Baghdad, Jul 28 (EFE).- Calm appeared to have returned to Baghdad on Thursday, a day after dozens of demonstrators stormed the Iraqi parliament building to protest an Iran-backed alliance’s candidate for prime minister amid a months-long political stalemate.

Security measures in the Iraqi capital’s fortified Green Zone, where the parliament and other key government buildings as well as foreign embassies are located, were reinforced after the protesters started to leave following a message from Iraq’s influential Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr telling them that their message had been delivered.

But tensions remain high due to the intense struggle between two rival Shiite blocs over the election of president and the formation of a new government. The parliament is responsible for both processes, which are already several months behind schedule.


The bloc led by al-Sadr, a populist cleric who enjoys strong support from the majority of the Shia population in Iraq and who was one of the main figures in the fight against the 2003 US invasion, secured 73 seats in the 329-strong parliament in parliamentary elections held in October last year.

Its main rival is the Fatah alliance, the political bloc representing the pro-Iranian militias that suffered a setback as it won only 17 seats, down from 47 in the 2018 elections.


According to a power-sharing arrangement reached after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, the speaker of parliament must be a Sunni Muslim, the prime minister a Shiite and the president a Kurd.

The Sadrist bloc formed an alliance with the Democratic Party of Kurdistan (PDK), the largest party in Iraqi Kurdistan, as well as with Sunni forces, which led to the re-election of parliament speaker Mohamed al-Halbousi in January.


The parliament failed to elect a new president, who appoints a prime minister-designate nominated by the country’s largest parliamentary group to try and form a government.

Although the alliance led by the Sadrists had a sufficient majority to elect the president, the pro-Iran Coordination Framework, a member of Fatah, boycotted the election.


After several failed voting attempts, al-Sadr in June ordered his 73 lawmakers to quit amid the political deadlock over forming a new government.

The withdrawal allowed the Coordination Framework to gain a parliamentary majority, although it was not until this week that it announced its candidate for prime minister, Mohamed Shia al-Sudani.

He has held positions in different governments and was already nominated to lead the government in 2019 after former premier Adel Abdul Mahdi stepped down in the wake of a large wave of anti-government protests.

The resignation of al-Sadr’s lawmakers did not mean that he gave up power, as he has maintained his influence on the streets.

In a show of force on July 15, he gathered hundreds of thousands of supporters in a Baghdad neighborhood for Friday prayers.


Shortly afterwards, the were allegations of audio leaks of former prime minister and the main figure of the Coordination Framework, Nouri al Maliki, in which he attacked al-Sadr and said that the United Kingdom had a plan to put him in charge of Iraq and then “kill him and transfer power to the Sunnis.”

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