MUQTADA al-Sadr has formed a surprise alliance with the Iranian-backed Fatah Alliance as Iraq moved closer towards a new national government.
Today’s press conference in the city of Najaf announced the formal coalition which will see Mr Sadr’s Sairoun (or Reform March) Alliance — a joint electoral grouping with the Iraqi Communist Party — potentially form a government with Hadi al-Ameri’s Fatah Alliance, which came second in May’s general election.
“The Reform March and the Fatah Alliance announce that they have formed a true alliance to accelerate the forming of a national government away from sectarianism,” Mr Sadr said.
Fatah leader Mr Amari said: “This is a call for anybody who has concerns for national interests. We will form commissions to discuss issues with everybody to accelerate the writing of a government programme.”
Mr Amari’s grouping includes the Popular Mobilisation Forces militia, mainly Shi’ite Arabs who fought alongside the Iraqi army to defeat Isis jihadists between 2014 and 2017.
The move came as a shock to many, as Mr Sadr had previously indicated that he would rule out such an alliance, having promised to challenge all foreign influence in the country.
Iranian ambassador General Kasik Suleymani had called after the election for conservative Shi’ite forces, including Fatah, to reject a coalition with Mr Sadr.
However the firebrand cleric said it was time to “move away from dogmatism” in the interests of Iraq and bring an end to instability and uncertainty.
“Our meeting was a very positive one, we met to end the suffering of this nation and of the people. Our new alliance is a nationalist one,” Mr Sadr announced.
Negotiations have been ongoing since Sairoun came first in May’s poll, winning 54 of the 329 seats in the Baghdad parliament.
An agreement was signed last week with Shi’ite religious authority Ammar al-Hakim’s al-Hikma list, along with Iyad Allawi’s list, which includes many Sunni MPs, bringing the total number of seats to 94.
Fatah won 47 seats in the election and the coalition deal closes the door on any possibility that current prime minister Haider al-Abadi can cling on to power.
Iraq’s parliament ordered a manual recount of the vote and sacked the electoral commission last week after claims of corruption and problems with the new electronic voting system.
Days later a warehouse storing half of the ballot boxes caught fire, prompting calls for new elections.
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