BAGHDAD. Iraq’s parliament on Thursday sworn in new MPs, replacing 73 MPs who collectively resigned earlier this month amid a prolonged political stalemate over the formation of the country’s next government.
A strike by supporters of Iraq’s most powerful Shiite politician, Muqtada al-Sadr, has sent Iraq into even more uncertainty, shuffling the pack after an October 10 election that gave the cleric the biggest block in parliament.
Although he emerged victorious, al-Sadr was unable to assemble a coalition that could form a majority government. He has been involved in a power struggle with internal Iranian-backed Shiite rivals, which is hindering the formation of a new government.
Two weeks ago, he ordered lawmakers from his parliamentary bloc to resign to end an eight-month deadlock. This unprecedented move has thrown the Iraqi political landscape into disarray.
According to Iraqi law, if any seat in Parliament becomes vacant, it is replaced by the candidate with the second highest number of votes in his constituency. In this case, Sadr’s opponents from the so-called Coordination Framework, a coalition led by Iranian-backed Shia parties and their allies, are in the majority with about 122 seats.
He removes al-Sadr from parliament for the first time since 2005 and allows pro-Iranian factions to determine the composition of the next government.
“Today, the first step has been completed – the replacement of the deputies taking the oath,” said MP Muhammad Saadoun Sayhod from the Rule of Law Coalition, represented in the Framework.
“Now we will begin the process of electing a president and appointing a prime minister based on the Coordination Framework,” he said, adding that he expected the formation of a new government to begin soon.
There was no immediate reaction from al-Sadr to the swearing in of new legislators. The political stalemate has led to fears of renewed protests and street clashes between al-Sadr’s supporters and their Shia rivals.
Although Parliament is on recess, lawmakers, mostly from the Framework alliance, called an extraordinary session on Thursday to vote on new lawmakers.
On Thursday, 64 deputies were sworn in, while nine other deputies were not present.
On Wednesday, al-Sadr accused Iranian proxies of political meddling. He also accused them of putting pressure on newly elected independent politicians and allies of his Sadrist bloc.
He urged parliamentarians not to succumb to pressure.
“I call on the blocs to courageously stand guard over the reforms and salvation of the nation and not give in to sectarian pressure, as these are bubbles that will disappear,” the statement said.
Munaf al-Musawi, a political analyst and director of the Baghdad Center for Strategic Studies, said al-Sadr’s statement against Iranian proxies also sends a message to his former allies, Massoud Barzani of the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the speaker of parliament. Mohammed Al-Khalbusi – not to hold a meeting of Parliament.
He said that if the session was held, the Coordinating Structure and its allies would control the parliament, and Sadr’s allies would pay the price.
Elections in Iraq were held months earlier than expected in response to massive protests that erupted in late 2019, with tens of thousands of people rallying against widespread corruption, poor service and unemployment.