A man for all seasons: What are Muqtada al-Sadr’s next political options?

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A man for all seasons: What are Muqtada al-Sadr’s next political options?

Muqtada al-Sadr has called on all members of his parliamentary bloc to tender their official resignation from parliament. It would seem that the influential Shiite cleric is attempting to assume the role of the opposition by urging his loyal MPs to resign.

If the Iraqi parliament accepts Sadrist legislators’ resignations, two distinct scenarios could take place:

  1. I) The first scenario is that, in unanimous support for Sadrist MPs, the Taqaddum (Progress) Alliance, which is led by Sunni Iraqi parliament speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi, the Azm Alliance, led by the businessman Khamis al-Khanjar, and the Barzani-led Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), also submit their resignations, leading to the dissolution of parliament. This scenario is a doubtful prospect considering that Massoud Barzani spent about $200 million on the election campaign with the financial assistance of the Emiratis, and a re-run of elections would be detrimental to his political party’s interests. Al-Halbousi also spent over $300 million (the majority of which came from Saudi Arabia) to gain the office of Speaker of the House. He granted al-Khanjar a portion of the Saudi donations in exchange for al-Khanjar’s support for his bid to become head of the parliament. Thus, Al-Halbousi has no serious intention of dissolving parliament.
  2. II) The second scenario will be a dramatic political shift, as Muqtada al-Sadr accepts to take up the role of the opposition as a consequence of his bloc’s decision to collectively resign. Afterwards, the Shiite Coordination Framework would nominate a candidate for the post of prime minister, most likely Nouri al-Maliki. However, since the perplexing conundrum in Iraq is fundamental and profound, the next prime minister will be unable to address all the crises in the short term, creating a propitious moment for the Sadrists to flood the streets and exploit the massive popular indignation and economic discontent.

Nevertheless, many observers believe that, unlike in the past, if the Shiite Coordination Framework candidate wins the Prime Ministership this time, it would usher in seismic changes in Iraqi politics with the support of Iran and China. There would be fewer opportunities for political jokers or pro-Western protest movements under this circumstance, which is reminiscent of Adil Abdul-Mahdi’s reign.

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