Outgrowing the Coordination Framework

Al-Sudani’s electoral ambitions stir political waters in Iraq

BAGHDAD — In a developing story that hints at deepening political fissures, Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani is reportedly in a tense standoff with leaders of the Coordination Framework, amid signs of an impending electoral competition in the upcoming parliamentary elections. This confrontation could escalate to a tightening of constraints on his position, especially if he decides to run outside the umbrella of the Coordination Framework for the 2025 parliament.

The elections, scheduled for next year according to constitutional timelines, are yet to have a confirmed date amidst discussions of a possible early vote this year. Observers suggest that this potential move could be a pressure tactic aimed at Al-Sudani.

On Sunday, political sources claimed that the leader of the State of Law coalition is preparing an amendment to the election law that would divide Iraq into 50 electoral districts, each with lists competing with a high electoral divisor. This change aims to prevent prominent winners in provincial council elections, such as Asaad al-Eidani and the governors of Karbala and Wasit, from “elevating other deputies with their votes” under Al-Sudani’s wing, according to the London-based newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat.

Sources close to 964media revealed that Al-Sudani’s efforts to enter the elections independently of the Coordination Framework might prompt the latter to “do anything to prevent this,” especially given Nouri Al-Maliki’s displeasure over the potential repercussions of Al-Sudani’s project.

Leaders within the Coordination Framework have expressed their primary concern over Al-Sudani competing for a voter base that is “neither naturally Sadrist, Sunni, nor Kurdish… Al-Sudani will be competing for the Shia of the Framework.”

A source from State of Law told 964media: “We will not support Al-Sudani if he decides to run independently. There is an agreement to diminish his significance even if he remains within the Framework.”

Al-Sudani has been accused of overly favoring Sunni factions and playing a negative role in the formation of the local government in Kirkuk. “He has listened too much to parties from whom he expects support in the upcoming elections, not realizing they intend to deceive him at this stage. He has not seriously considered our proposals in this matter,” another source within the Coordination Framework said.

Critics within the coalition also highlighted Al-Sudani’s weak stance when “we lost our entitlement [in the share of governance] in the Salah Al-Din local administration, listening only to the Sunni factions.”

The sources added, “We have certain conditions we will present to him after the government formations in Kirkuk and Diyala are concluded. Afterward, we will decide his stature and role within the Coordination Framework.”

Political analyst Saad Al-Zubaidi shared insights with 964media on Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani’s strategic moves ahead of the next parliamentary elections, suggesting a second term might be his target. Historical precedents indicate that prime ministers have often sought reelection through establishing political parties to enter the electoral fray.

Prime Ministers in Iraq’s post-2003 political process are often picked as consensus candidates among and between Iraq’s major power players, and are not themselves strong political figures with their own established electorates.

Al-Zubaidi expects Al-Sudani to run in the upcoming elections via a party managed behind the scenes, alongside an agreement with the Coordination Framework for a second term. “Al-Sudani’s popularity, particularly following his government’s public service projects, has reportedly caused concern within the Framework about his potential electoral advance at their expense.”

“The prime minister is keenly aware of the expected backlash from Nouri Al-Maliki, a dominant figure within the Coordination Framework, and is preparing for the elections with caution and discretion,” Al-Zubaidi added.

Mukhlid Hazem, an advisor at the Arab Center, said “efforts are underway to compel Al-Sudani to resign from the prime minister’s office six months before the legislative elections.”

These efforts have gained momentum amid talks of an electoral law amendment to reverse reform of how constituencies are divided, aiming to diminish Al-Sudani’s chances.

Predictions suggest Al-Sudani “might reject an offer for a second term in exchange for bowing out of the electoral race,” contrasting with his predecessor Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, who opted out of elections for a potential return as prime minister. A gambit that failed.

Political researcher Sabah Al-Akeeli said an agreement between the Coordination Framework and Al-Sudani during government formation that “he would not contest” the local council elections of December last year “could extend to new conditions by the Framework to bar him from the upcoming parliamentary elections.”

“Undoubtedly, if Al-Sudani enters the fray, he will not align with the Coordination Framework forces but will rely on local allies in the provinces,” indicating a significant shift in Iraq’s political alliances and electoral strategies.