Iraq's Sadrist movement rejects joining new government

Mohammed Shia Al Sudani, nominee of the rival Co-ordination Framework bloc, has four weeks to form a government

Supporters of Moqtada Al Sadr hold up a poster of the populist Iraqi cleric during a protest in parliament on August 2. AFP
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The Iraqi political bloc led by influential Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr said on Saturday that it would not join a new government being formed by prime minister-designate Mohammed Shia Al Sudani.

The announcement came two days after parliament elected Abdul Latif Rashid as Iraq's new president, and he swiftly tasked Mr Al Sudani to form a new government to end a year of political gridlock since elections in October 2021.

"We stress our firm and clear refusal for any of our affiliates to participate ... in this government formation," Mohammed Saleh Al Iraqi, a close associate of Mr Al Sadr, said in a statement posted on Twitter.

Mr Al Sudani, a former minister, has the backing of Mr Al Sadr's Iran-backed rivals, the Co-ordination Framework, which controls 138 out of 329 seats in the Iraqi legislature.

Mr Al Sadr ordered the 73 lawmakers in his bloc to resign in June, leaving parliament in the hands of the Framework, which includes representatives of the former paramilitary Hashed Al Shaabi.

In his statement on Saturday, Mr Al Iraqi claimed that the incoming government would have a "clear subordination to militias" and would "not meet the [Iraqi] people's aspirations".

He said the Sadrist movement refused to take part in any government led by Mr Al Sudani "or any other candidate from among the old faces or those affiliated with the corrupt".

"Anyone who joins their ministries does not represent us ... rather, we disavow them," he said.

Early elections were held last year following nationwide protests that erupted in October 2019 to decry endemic corruption, decaying infrastructure and the absence of services and jobs for youth.

Mr Al Sadr, who has the ability to mobilise tens of thousands of supporters with a single tweet, has repeatedly demanded fresh elections, while the Co-ordination Framework wants a new government in place before any polls are held.

Tensions between the rival Shiite camps boiled over on August 29 when more than 30 Al Sadr supporters were killed in clashes with Iran-backed factions and the army in Baghdad's Green Zone, which houses government buildings and diplomatic missions.

Meanwhile, Iraq's outgoing Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi appointed Hayam Nemat as acting finance minister after accepting the resignation of Ihsan Abdul Jabbar, the state news agency said on Saturday.

It said Mr Nemat would fill the position until a new government is formed.

— With reporting from agencies.

Updated: October 15, 2022, 2:02 PM