Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
What next on Iran’s nuclear deal: follow the news here

Shiite coalition a threat to al Maliki

Partnership will be the biggest voice in Iraq's parliament.

BAGHDAD // A newly formed Shiite political front has become the most powerful force in Iraq's parliament, in a development that could heighten already simmering sectarian tensions. The coalition brings together the two major Shiite groups that had contested the March 7 elections independently from one another - the prime minister Nouri al Maliki's State of Law bloc and the Iraqi National Alliance (INA), which includes the Sadr movement and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI).

Precise details of the partnership have not been released but according to the Associated Press news agency the deal gives wide reaching powers to Iraq's Shiite clerical establishment and would severely limit the decision-making abilities of the prime minister. Sunni groups and nationalists have reacted with dismay and anger, insisting that as the largest parliamentary bloc to contest the election, the Iraqiyya list led by Ayad Allawi and heavily supported by Sunnis, retains the right to nominate the prime minister and attempt to form a government.

Iraq's highest judicial authority has yet to issue clear guidance on whether parliamentary alliances formed after votes were cast should be called upon to create the next national administration. Such legal rulings may already have been rendered irrelevant in practice however, with the new coalition assuring the broad Shiite front will be the biggest voice in the 325-seat parliament, with a combined total of some 159 seats against Iraqiyya's 91.

The Kurdish bloc, with 43 seats, has already indicated it will join forces with the Shiites, recreating the same coalition that ruled Iraq since 2005. Usama al Najafi, a leading member of the Iraqiyya list, condemned the Shiite coalition as divisive. "The alliance between State of Law and the INA is sectarian," he said, a view shared by many Sunni Arabs. The Sunni boycott of the 2005 elections and their disenfranchisement fuelled a bloody insurgency and helped lead Iraq into a brutal sectarian civil war.

Mr Najafi insisted Iraqiyya retained the power to appoint a prime minister of its choosing. "The alliance does not undermine our right to nominate the candidate for the prime ministerial position, according to the constitution," he said in an interview. That assertion was flatly rejected by Ali al Dabagh, a key figure in the new Shiite front. "Iraqiyya has lost the opportunity to nominate anyone from its list to the position of president or to the prime minister's office," he said.

The prospect of the same government that ran the country before the election effectively reforming has prompted warnings that the insurgency - for some time on the wane as Sunnis engaged in the political process - may now be rekindled. "Sunnis are going to be furious about what is happening on the national political stage and the next four years are going to be no better than the last four years," said Ahmad al Dulaimy, 39, a lawyer and independent politician from Baghdad.

He was also critical of the two Shiite parties for announcing their alliance before final election results were confirmed. The results expected in two weeks or more. The new Shiite front has yet to give itself a name and has not nominated a candidate to serve as its overall leader, perhaps indicating lingering divisions within the grouping. The Sadrists in particular are at loggerheads with State of Law's leader, Mr al Maliki. He seems unlikely to retain his position at the head of the next government and may even be replaced by the former prime minister Ibrahim al Jaafari.

In Iraq there is now a palpable feeling that the clock has, in some sense, been turned back and that the country may have finally slipped into the kind of sectarianism it appeared to be on course to escape just one year ago. "As a Sunni I feel very angry about this alliance," said Mohammad al Khudiary, a construction engineer from Baghdad. "They will reject us from government once again and I believe this will bring a lot of problems to my country."


Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 A view of a defaced portrait of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during an anti-North Korean rally on the 102nd birthday of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung in central Seoul. Kim Hong-Ji / Reuters

Best photography from around the world, April 15

The National View's photo editors pick the best images of the day from around the world.

 The Doha-based Youssef Al Qaradawi speaks to the crowd as he leads Friday prayers in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt in February, 2011. The outspoken pro-Muslim Brotherhood imam has been critical of the UAE’s policies toward Islamist groups, adding to friction between Qatar and other GCC states. Khalil Hamra / AP Photo

Brotherhood imam skips Doha sermon, but more needed for GCC to reconcile

That Youssef Al Qaradawi did not speak raises hopes that the spat involving Qatar and the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain might be slowly moving towards a resolution.

 Twitter photo of  Abdel Fattah El Sisi on the campaign trail on March 30. Photo courtesy-Twitter/@SisiCampaign

El Sisi rides a bicycle, kicks off social media storm

The photos and video created a huge buzz across social media networks, possibly a marker of a new era for Egypt.

 An Afghan election commission worker carries a ballot box at a vote counting centre in Jalalabad on April 6. A roadside bomb hit a truck carrying full ballot boxes in northern Afghanistan, killing three people a day after the country voted for a successor to President Hamid Karzai. Eight boxes of votes were destroyed in the blast, which came as the three leading candidates voiced concerns about possible fraud. Noorullah Shirzada / AFP Photo

Two pressing questions for Afghanistan’s future president

Once in office, the next Afghan president must move fast to address important questions that will decide the immediate future of the country.

 Friday is UN Mine Awareness Day and Omer Hassan, who does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan, is doing all he can to teach people about the dangers posed by landmines. Louise Redvers for The National

A landmine nearly ended Omer’s life but he now works to end the threat of mines in Iraq

Omer Hassan does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan and only has to show people his mangled leg to underscore the danger of mines. With the world marking UN Mine Awareness Day on Friday, his work is as important as ever as Iraq is one of the most mine-affected countries in the world.

 Supporters of Turkey's ruling AKP cheer as they follow the election's results in front of the party's headquarters in Ankara on March 30. Adem Altan/ AFP Photo

Erdogan critic fears retaliation if he returns to Turkey

Emre Uslu is a staunch critic of Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Now, with a mass crackdown on opposition expected, he is unsure when he can return home.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National