10/15/2021, 11.47
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Iraqi academic: al-Sadr declared election winner, protests in Parliament

by Dario Salvi

The vote marks the victory of the Shiite nationalist leader, the defeat of pro-Tehran movements and the entry of representatives of the protest movement. Saad Salloum: al-Sadr "even more powerful", fundamental in managing "the balance" of the assembly. Civil society and the protest movement in the institutions will have to "assert their seats". 


Baghdad (AsiaNews) - The elections in Iraq mark the victory of the radical Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr, who "has become even more powerful" and can now "hold the reins of command" for the next few years, managing "the balance" within the Parliament, observes Saad Salloum, a journalist and associate professor at the chair of Political Science at the prestigious University of al-Mustanṣiriyya in Baghdad.

Speaking to AsiaNews from Iraq, the academic from one of the world's oldest centres of study comments that the assembly will indicate the new government and "there are widespread opinions that the next prime minister will be appointed within the al-Sadr galaxy" or from among "independent" personalities who can however count on "Sadrist support" that will "determine" their appointment. 

Besides the government, al-Sadr will be decisive "in the choice of the President of the Republic and of the President of the Parliament", figures that will be determined "by an agreement" with the nationalist leader "or with his green light".

This is why he will be a protagonist "in the formation of the next executive and institutional structure" of the country, in the face of a vote that marks a strong abstentionism - only 41% of those eligible expressed their preference - and growing divisions on Iranian influence. 

Indeed, among the big losers are pro-Tehran parties and armed groups, including the Fateh (Conquest) Alliance, which garnered only a dozen votes, compared to 48 in the previous round of elections in 2018. Far from accepting defeat at the polls, both the alliance and other factions linked to Iran speak of manipulation, fraud and promise appeals. "We will appeal against the results of a vote that we strongly reject," they state in a note. 

The poll, still partial but not yet official, assigns 73 seats (out of 329) to al-Sadr's bloc, which, however, will have to deal with movements aligned with Iran. For this reason, months of negotiations are foreseen before arriving at the 165 majority seats and the election of a prime minister, in an internal and external climate of inevitable and growing pressure with other players in the game, including the United States and Gulf nations.

A second mandate for the current premier Mustafa al-Kadhimi, who has been able to balance interests and pressures between Teheran and Washington, favoring the resumption of dialogue between the Islamic Republic and Riyadh, is not excluded. The decision will be in the hands of al-Sadr, who will have to evaluate if al-Kadhimi represents a valid compromise. 

In the background there are the Sunni groups that today appear more united and cohesive and the seats won by the protest movements that have determined the early voting in 2019 and have decided to run in the elections, some of which are composed of young people.

"Some seats - have gone to the protest movement and, although of little numerical value, are a tangible sign of that period. They will be able to make their voice heard in the choice of president, head of government and parliament, if they know how to be intelligent and shrewd," Saad Salloum points out.

 "This minority is important and will be able to give a new spirit to Parliament. Its members will be able to ensure a control of policies and government direction" in a role of guarantors, coming from "activist movements and civil society" he concludes. These elections, despite their low turnout, "paint a new parliamentary map", therefore they are "an element of surprise in a positive way".

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