Baghdad: al-Sadr wins election, but fails to gain parliamentary majority
The bloc of the radical Shiite leader, enemy of the U.S. and distant from Tehran, wins the largest number of seats and exceeds the result of 2018. Sunnis and the pro-Iranian coalition of al-Maliki counts losses. Abstentionism weighs heavily, only 41% of eligible voters cast ballots. Four Christian seats (out of five) to the Babylon Movement. Shadows of fraud and manipulation.
Baghdad (AsiaNews) - With about 94% of ballots counted and a result that now appears crystallized, the winner of the elections in Iraq is undoubtedly the radical Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr, whose party consolidates its place since 2018 by increasing the number of seats. However, no bloc appears to be able to secure a clear majority in Parliament and appoint, alone, the next prime minister called to form the new executive.
The bloc led by former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is far behind but nonetheless will have a leadership role, contending for second position with the Sunni faction led by Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi. The latter is credited with 38 seats, while al-Maliki's State of Law coalition is stuck at 37, in a political landscape dominated by Shiite movements since the 2003 US invasion, which brought about the fall of Saddam Hussein.
In spite of the appeals of religious leaders, from the Chaldean primate to the great Ayatollah al-Sistani, the level of participation is lower than the 2018 polls and the figure of voters stops at a modest 41%, confirming a general disillusionment of the population, especially the youth.
On the positive side, there is the fact that the operations took place regularly and no particular incidents were recorded, pending possible complaints of fraud.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres congratulated the Iraqi people "for the way the elections were held", while appealing for calm while waiting for the final results and the formation of the government "in an environment of peace, security and tranquility".
Data from several provinces and the electoral college in Baghdad shows that al Sadr's movement won more than 73 seats, out of the 329 in total in Parliament, well above the 54 in the 2018 elections. Its leader Moqtada - a sworn enemy of the U.S., but distant from Tehran as well - claimed victory and promised a nationalist and patriotic government free of foreign interference.
"We ask all embassies - he added - not to interfere in the internal affairs of Iraq" and specified that the celebrations in the streets will take place "without weapons". The Kurdish parties should get a total of 61 seats, 32 of which to the Kurdistan Democratic Party that governs the autonomous region in the north (15 to the rival Patriotic Union of Kurdistan).
As far as the Christian vote is concerned, four of the five seats reserved for Christians should go to the "Babylon Movement", out of the nine seats reserved for minorities. The fifth, which refers to the electoral college of Erbil, should go to the independent candidate Farouk Hanna Atto.
Some observers say the result is surprising and could fuel controversy and accusations of political manipulation on the seats reserved for minorities. The movement is in fact the political emanation of the "Babylon Brigades", Christian on paper and led by Ryan "the Chaldean", but in fact linked to the pro-Iranian Shiite militia protagonists of the fight against the Islamic State (IS, formerly Isis). In fact, there are suspicions of a convergence of Shiite votes and voters on Christian candidates, to ensure victory to the most "popular" personalities.