Iraq sinks deeper into political crisis
June 16, 2022 - The party of firebrand Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has quit the government, raising fears of conflict if his Iran-backed rivals form an administration to replace outgoing Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi.
For months, al-Sadr has tried to form a majority government following the October elections in which his Sadrist Bloc won 73 seats in the 329-seat parliament.
Iraq’s “muhasasa” power-sharing system is at the root of the crisis. The arrangement -- introduced following the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 -- provides proportional representation in government among Iraq’s ethno-sectarian groups.
Iraq’s President should be an ethnic Kurd, the Prime Minister a Shia and the Speaker of Parliament a Sunni. The biggest block, which needs a two-thirds majority (220 seats), elects the President, who then appoints a Prime Minister.
However, many Iraqis believe the system is deeply flawed and embodies all that has gone wrong -- endemic corruption in government as much of the oil-rich country’s population endures economic hardship.
Iraq’s political coalitions comprise two main camps: The National Salvation Coalition and the Coordination Framework.
Al-Sadr leads the National Salvation Coalition, while former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki leads the Coordination Framework. What adds fuel to the fire is al-Sadr’s complete rejection of al-Maliki’s party in his coalition.
In addition, there is fierce competition between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) over the presidency. PUK wants to renew the term of incumbent Barham Salih, but the KDP want al-Sadr-backed Rebar Ahmed for President.
There are concerns that the stalemate and tension could boil over and lead to street protests by supporters of al-Sadr, turning into violence between them and rival armed Shiite militias.