Sudani wishes to run on independent ticket

Divisions deepen within Coordination Framework over election law amendments

BAGHDAD — Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani is considering resigning six months before the scheduled elections to potentially boost his political stature, informed sources have told 964media. This comes amid a turbulent debate over his future and amendments to the election law.

This significant development comes as Nouri Al-Maliki, leader of the State of Law Coalition, intensifies his push for changes to the election law despite widespread objections within the Coordination Framework, signaling deep political divisions and a possible shift in Iraq’s governance. The Framework is the core of Iraq’s governing coalition of Iraq’s mainly pro-Iran Shia groups.

“Maliki is very stubborn, continuing to push for changes to the law despite public objections from leaders within the Framework,” said a source speaking anonymously to 964media, shedding light on the internal discord. Maliki’s determination to maintain and strengthen his influence underscores the contentious atmosphere.

This controversy comes after a report by 964media, revealing a tense confrontation between Al-Sudani and Framework leaders, amidst indications that he intends to run on an electoral ticket independent from the Coordination Framework that endorsed his premiership in 2022. There are indications that the Framework may move to limit Al-Sudani’s influence and contest his potential candidacy outside the Framework for the upcoming parliamentary elections. The ongoing debate over the election law and uncertainty surrounding the exact election date, with discussions of a potential early vote, continue to exacerbate tensions in the political arena.

Sources within the Framework disclose Al-Maliki’s aspirations to take on the prime ministerial role in the upcoming governmental cycle as a response to the “crises of the past years requiring a different kind of governance.” However, his plans face opposition from Framework leaders concerned about the consequences of altering the election law. “Opposition would lead to dismantling the Framework and handing over governance to your enemies, potentially returning to times when bloodshed was a possibility,” Maliki has countered, emphasizing the stakes of the current political discourse.

Al-Maliki’s previous term was marked by controversy and accusations of authoritarian tendencies. He was forced to resign after the Islamic State swept through large swathes of Iraq in 2014.

Maliki has insisted that he “will not allow the next elections, whether early or on their constitutional timeline, to be conducted under the current law that governed the provincial council votes,” arguing that “such a formula would fundamentally alter the balance of power and end an era that lasted more than 16 years.”

Internal tensions within the Framework arise as its leaders express apprehensions about the recent actions and intentions of influential cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr. Al Sadr has recently made appearances in markets and nurseries, as well as a visit to Najaf to confer with Shia religious authorities. “Not understanding what Al-Sadr intends by his appearances in markets and nurseries has left us at a standstill,” shared one source from within the Coordination Framework who wished to remain anonymous.

Al-Sadr’s list won the most seats in the last elections, but he ordered his MPs to withdraw from parliament after failing to form a government due to new changes imposed by the Federal Supreme Court regarding the majority needed to convene Parliament sessions to form a government. He also boycotted last year’s provincial council elections.

Attempts to engage with Muqtada Al-Sadr have seemingly failed so far. The Sadrist Movement’s leader opposed efforts to change the electoral law and abolish multi-district provinces. However, with no MPs in parliament, he is not in a position to stop it legislatively. He has not yet responded to the Framework’s overtures.

Ammar Al-Hakim, head of the National Wisdom Movement and a prominent figure within the Framework, has emphasized the critical need for dialogue: “The next political step cannot proceed without a dialogue with Al-Sadr,” he stated, indicating the pivotal role Al-Sadr plays in shaping the country’s political future. Al-Hakim has expressed concern, stating, “We cannot approach Al-Hanana and leave Al-Sudani behind penalized because al-Sadr would then know ‘where it hurts us.'” His worry stems from a potential scheme aimed at toppling Al-Sudani’s government, a sentiment that resonates within the Framework, particularly with former Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi.

The Al-Hanana area, notable for hosting the office and residence of influential cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in Najaf, serves as a prominent political and spiritual hub for Sadr’s followers. Its significance in Iraqi politics stems from Al-Sadr’s capacity to rally substantial support, rendering it a pivotal site for political discussions and agreements.

Against the backdrop of internal tensions and uncertainty among Framework’s ranks, sources also indicated that Al-Sudani “is attempting to capitalize politically on this stormy debate over his future,” with associates viewing the turmoil as “advantageous for enhancing his political image among the public.”

Al-Sudani, like many of his predecessors, entered office without a strong political constituency of his own. Prime ministers in Iraq are often chosen by established political forces as compromise candidates.

Despite the constitutional timetable for the upcoming general elections (to be held every four years), the precise date remains undetermined amid talks of a potential early vote this year and proposed amendments to the law, which observers perceive as a tactic to exert pressure on Al-Sudani.

There is already speculation among observers about demonstrations being planned for the upcoming June, which some have described as a deliberate campaign to destabilize al-Sudani’s premiership. These developments suggest a complex interplay of political maneuvering within the Framework and the broader Shia political landscape.

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

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

Muqtada Al-Sadr visits Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani

Muqtada Al-Sadr visits Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani