Iraq’s Moqtada Al Sadr calls for national majority government after winning elections

Populist cleric holds unprecedented meeting with leaders of Shiite parties in Baghdad

Moqtada Al Sadr (R) and Hadi Al Amiri, leader of the Badr Organisation, attend a meeting with Shiite political leaders in Baghdad. Reuters
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Moqtada Al Sadr on Thursday called for the formation of a national majority government after meeting leaders of the country’s Shiite movement.

The populist cleric’s political movement won 73 of the Parliament's 329 seats in Iraq's general elections in October. The country’s election commission confirmed the results this week after a painstaking manual recount of hundreds of ballot boxes.

The victory puts him at the centre of Iraq's lengthy government formation process.

"Neither eastern or western ... a national majority government," Mr Al Sadr said on Twitter after meeting leaders of the Iraqi Co-ordination Framework, the umbrella group of Shiite parties contesting the election’s results.

In his tweet, Mr Al Sadr indicated that the next government will be free from foreign influence.

The cleric is a former leader of an anti-American militia who has often surprised observers with his political manoeuvres.

He has long said that he is pushing to be in the majority government but not in a coalition with weaker parties. He believes that a coalition government has failed to serve the interests of Iraqis.

The meeting with Shiite leaders included former prime minister Nouri Al Maliki who heads the State of Law, paramilitary leader Hadi Al Amiri who leads the Fatah party, and Shiite cleric Ammar Al Hakim and former prime minister Haider Al Abadi, the chiefs of the State of Forces. It took place in Mr Al Amiri’s house may have been the first face-to-face meeting between Mr Al Maliki and Mr Al Sadr since 2006, said Sajad Jiyad, a fellow at the Century Foundation who lives in Baghdad.

"An agreement might not be reached right away but clearly no other direction apart from consensus, compromise, coalition," he said.

A statement was issued at the end of the meeting that said the leaders discussed "outstanding issues ... to strengthen the bonds of unity and fraternity between the sons of the nation and to serve the interest of the Iraqi people".

Issues of discussion included, combating corruption, the withdrawal of foreign troops, enhancing security around the country and elevating the state's economic crisis, the statement said.

Iraq, an oil-rich country of 40 million people, is still recovering from years of conflict and turmoil.

Updated: December 02, 2021, 4:32 PM