Reporting by Nadine Ibrahim, as part of the CNN Middle East newsletter. To subscribe to the newsletter (click hereA)
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (CNN)– After 8 months of political paralysis, the Iraqi political kingmaker ordered his bloc to withdraw from Parliament.
The resignation of the entire group of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, consisting of 73 deputies, is the biggest change in Iraqi politics since the elections last October, which saw the Iranian-backed Shiite blocs lose seats to the Sadrists. It now appears that the Sadrists have retreated from parliamentary politics.
It’s a “radical shift that threatens to undermine the entire post-2003 political system,” said Rang Aladdin, a non-resident fellow in the foreign policy program at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.
Al-Sadr said, in a statement, that his request for the resignation of his deputies from Parliament is “a sacrifice from me for the sake of the country and the people to rid them of an unknown fate.”
The move “changed the political discourse,” said Sajjad Jiyad, a research fellow at The Century Foundation think-tank in Washington.
Al-Sadr is very popular in Iraq. For years, he has taken a stand against both Iran and the United States, emerging last October as the big winner in a parliamentary election that threatened to marginalize Iran-aligned Shiite blocs that have long dominated the oil-rich country’s politics.
But the political situation since then has been at a standstill, with bickering and accusations of corruption disrupting the presidential elections and obstructing the formation of the government.
Al-Sadr said, in a speech last Thursday, that “if the survival of the Sadrist bloc (in parliament) is an obstacle to forming a government, then all the bloc’s deputies are honorably ready to resign from parliament.”
Experts explain that, according to the procedure, as soon as a deputy resigns and the process is completed, the next candidate who was a rival and received the second largest group of votes enters as a replacement.
This will “redistribute 73 parliamentary seats among the various political blocs,” Abbas Kazem, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council think tank, said via his Twitter account, adding that the Iranian-allied Shiites are expected to take these seats, along with some independents.
Will al-Sadr surrender to Iran-backed groups, or is this just an attempt to project his power on the streets where he wields enormous influence? Analysts see it as likely to be the second scenario.
Rang Aladdin said that “Al-Sadr’s secret weapon is his vast popular network of supporters and his dominance on the street,” adding that “the withdrawal of the Sadrist movement’s representatives is an indication of the intention to confront his rivals in the street.”
Ihsan al-Shammari, professor of political science at the University of Baghdad and head of the Center for Political Thinking in Iraq, said that the resignations came after the Shiite blocs allied with Iran opposed al-Sadr’s initiative to form a government, and they also come at a time when al-Sadr realizes that he cannot form a national majority government in light of the bloc’s obstacles. The competition.
Sajjad Jiyad said Sadr may be signaling to his supporters that he did everything in his power to try to form a government with his Shi’ite rivals allied with Iran. He added that this move may also pose a threat to other parties, and show that they can not do without him.
Al-Shammari said that Sadr’s influence has not diminished at all, adding that Sadr “will continue in the direction of popular opposition…and I think this will double his political power.”
Analysts say that removing Sadr and his party from the government will result in chaos, and that any government born of Sadr’s isolation “will be dead.”
Al-Shammari said that this “will lead to the anger of the Iraqis and Sadr’s supporters,” adding: “They will not accept to see their leader politically broken or isolated.”