BAGHDAD (Dispatches) -- Iraq’s October 10 elections reinforced the parliamentary strength of Moqtada Sadr, according to preliminary results.
A final tally from the ballot, organized to appease youth-led protests that began in 2019, is expected in the next few weeks, but so far no bloc has a clear mandate.
That means the numerous political parties will engage in lengthy negotiations to form alliances and name a new prime minister.
Harith Hasan, a nonresident senior fellow at the Carnegie Middle East Center, generally sees two main potential scenarios.
The first is the revival of a “Shia alliance” between Sadr and the Hashd al-Sha’abi anti-terror party, a former paramilitary network now integrated into the regular security forces.
Results so far show Sadr won more than 70 of the 329 parliamentary seats.
This coalition option would see Sadr accepting “a new power-sharing arrangement with a compromise candidate” as prime minister, Hasan said.
According to preliminary results the Conquest (Fatah) Alliance, the political arm of the multi-party Hashd, emerged from the election with around 15 seats in parliament.
In the last chamber it had 48, which made it the second largest bloc.
A source in Fatah told AFP that some of its leaders “suggested to a representative of the Sadrists to conclude an alliance” with them and other Shia entities.
A second scenario would see Sadr align himself with Massoud Barzani, the longtime head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party which runs the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq.
Muhammad al-Halbussi, the former parliamentary speaker who cultivates an image of dynamism and leads a construction boom in his home city of Ramadi, would also be part of this coalition, along with smaller groups.
Despite losing seats, the Hashd is still expected to carry weight in parliament through the support of members who are independent, and arrangements with former prime minister Nuri al-Maliki, who held the post between 2006 and 2014.
An ally of Hashd and a figure close to Iran, Maliki won more than 30 seats.
No name has yet emerged as a replacement for Mustafa al-Kadhemi.
Sadr had claimed he was going to name the next prime minister, but the one ultimately chosen “has to be a consensus candidate,”
said Lahib Higel, a senior analyst on Iraq at the International Crisis Group.
It could be Kadhemi himself. He brought forward the elections, originally scheduled for 2022, in response to the protests over endemic corruption, unemployment and failing public services.
With no base of his own and no seat in parliament, Kadhemi could be a convenient choice “because to a certain degree you will get rid of a part of the responsibility when the face of the government is someone else,” Higel said.
In Hasan’s view, “Kadhemi still stands a good chance to stay in office.”