Iraq's largest Shiite parliamentary bloc agrees on nominee for prime minister post

Political wrangling has delayed formation of government since elections held in October

A supporter of Moqtada Al Sadr raises a placard in Sadr City, east of Baghdad. Talks to form a new government in Iraq have stalled. AFP
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Iraq’s nearly 10-month government formation process appeared to stumble forward on Monday with the nomination of a prime ministerial candidate by the largest bloc in parliament, the Co-ordination Framework.

A statement from the grouping of Iran-backed political parties — several linked to militias — forwarded Mohammed Al Sudani for the role of prime minister.

An MP for three terms since 2014, Mr Al Sudani started his political career as a member of the Shiite Dawa Party and ran for election with the State of Law Coalition led by former prime minister Nouri Al Maliki. In 2021, he established his Al Foratyen Movement but kept close ties to Mr Al Maliki.

Among other posts, he served as minister of human rights from 2010 to 2014 and minister of labour and social affairs from 2014 to 2018. He worked in an acting role for several ministries during Mr Al Maliki’s two terms in office from 2006 to 2014.

He belongs to a well-known tribe in the southern province of Maysan, where he served as member of its provincial council between 2004 and 2009 when he became governor for a year.

The State of Law Coalition is one of the parties within the Co-ordination Framework. Mr Al Maliki was removed from office in 2014, when ISIS took over one third of the country, amid widespread allegations of corruption.

Analysts say he retains powerful political influence by raising funds from a business empire built while in power, but his prime ministerial candidacy is contentious due to his bitter opposition to the Sadrist bloc, led by Moqtada Al Sadr.

A political group linked to Mr Al Sadr emerged in the strongest position after October's elections, gaining 73 of the 328 seats in the country's national assembly.

But Mr Al Sadr failed to form the government with his Sunni and Kurdish allies, prompting him to order his MPs to resign last month and passing the responsibility of government formation to his rival, the Co-ordination Framework.

After the resignation, the Coordination Framework emerged with a plurality of seats in Parliament, in theory giving it the right to present a nominee for prime minister, who would then be asked by the legislative body to form the government.

But this would require a new president, who according to Iraq's constitution must "charge the nominee of the largest Council of Representatives bloc with the formation of the Council of Ministers within 15 days from the date of the election of the President of the Republic".

Several attempts to elect a new president have been boycotted by political rivals.

Although Mr Al Sadr is now outside of the political process, his endorsement could still prove significant for any nominee and therefore to the government formation process.

Mr Al Sudani’s nomination for the same post was rejected by Mr Al Sadr in 2019 when Adel Abdul Mahdi’s government resigned amid widespread anti-government protests that overwhelmed most of the country.

Then, he was nominated by the State of Law Coalition, a move that drew widespread condemnation from the nationwide protest movement. Mr Al Sadr also released a statement saying he would not accept a prime minister nominated by a political party.

An unofficial agreement among Iraq’s political parties means that the post of president is held by a member of the Kurdish community, while the prime minister is a Shiite and the speaker a Sunni.

Other government posts are also divided among the political parties based on religious and ethnic backgrounds.

Updated: July 25, 2022, 3:05 PM