Coming on two weeks after the election, Iraq still struggles and still has no prime minister or even a prime minister-designate. Yet we are all supposed to pretend. Which is how we get dreck like Thomas O'Falk (ALJAZEERA) report:
Muqtada al-Sadr remains one of Iraq’s most influential political figures and plays a pivotal role when it comes to the country’s future. He is currently considered the kingmaker, but it remains unclear if he can form a government with stability.
In the latest elections, al-Sadr’s party obtained 70 of a total of 329 parliamentary seats – a significant increase compared with the result of 2018, when his movement won 54 seats.
Despite this election result, al-Sadr did not run as a candidate for Iraq’s prime ministership.
The reason is relatively simple and founded in al-Sadr’s political strategy, Ruba Ali Al-Hassani, postdoctoral researcher at Lancaster University & Project SEPAD, told Al Jazeera.
Moqtada is a kingmaker?
He may become one. At present? He's not. He's part of a stalled system. And while Moqtada dithers and is unable to pull together an alliance, you better believe Nouri al-Maliki is working on putting together an alliance. Or did we all forget 2010?
Nouri's State of Law bloc came in second to Moqtada's bloc. Do we really think what happened in 2010 can't happen again? Or are we just ignorant of recent history? Or maybe we just discount Nouri's drive? If it's the latter, we're wrong to do so.
It's amazing how little attention is being given to Nouri. AL-MONITOR is one of the few outlets to emphasize the success Nouri had in this election:
At the US government funded Carnegie Endowment for Peace, Harith Hasan writes:
On the one hand, mainstream parties such as those of the Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, the speaker of parliament Mohammed al-Halbousi, and the former president of the Kurdistan Region Massoud Barzani, appeared to be the main winners. On the other hand, there was more room for independents and newcomers to win a greater number of seats in the latest elections than during any of the previous elections, and they actually would have won more had the turnout been higher.
I believe that last sentence should be ''they actually MIGHT have won more had the turnout been higher." Or has Carnegie dumped analysis for psychic readings? Is this Carnegie Endowment or Carnac The Magnificent's Endowment For Peace?
More problems, Harith writes:
Election results have shown a considerable shift in the balance of power in favor of two competitors—Sadr and Maliki. If anything, Sadr’s gains—projected to be 72–75 seats—reflect his having an organized party. It is not that Sadr’s base has expanded significantly; the opposite may be true given that the total votes he received in this election appear to be less than what he received in the previous one. But the Sadrist movement has turned itself into an effective electoral machine, skillfully taking advantage of the new electoral system and fully using its voting power. The Sadrists were also helped by the low turnout, well-managed coordination between different levels of their organization, and the clarity of their political identity.
No, Moqtada does not have "an organized party." Only one political party got more than 30 seats and that was the KDP (Massoud Barzani is the leader of that political party which is based in the Kurdistan).
The other good performer among Shia voters was Maliki, who is projected to win 35–37 seats, after winning 25 in the last election. While there is a large gap between him and Sadr in terms of seats, the fact that he outperformed Fateh, an alliance of Iran-allied groups and paramilitaries that won 48 seats in the previous election, surprised many observers. Fateh is projected to win about 20 seats this time, and it appears that Maliki picked up most of those the alliance lost. Indeed, the power gained by Fateh and allied paramilitaries after 2014 was in part the outcome of the fragmentation of the coalition Maliki had formed when he was a prime minister.
Maliki’s fortunes have now been revived because he fielded strong candidates and appealed to Shia voters who associate him with a strong Shia-leaning state rather than one dominated by militias. The former prime minister also attracted votes from social categories that benefited from his government’s lavish spending on employment and patronage when oil prices were at their highest.
The first reaction to Sadr’s large win was the decision of the losers, led by Iran-allied groups, to rally around Maliki. But this time it is the former prime minister who is in the driver’s seat. Simultaneously, Fateh rejected the election results due to suspected voting irregularities, and allied armed groups threatened to intervene. The escalation in their rhetoric could quickly deteriorate into street clashes or armed conflict with Sadr’s supporters. More likely, this escalation, perhaps accompanied by limited confrontations, is intended to force Sadr to accept a power-sharing agreement with an alliance that includes his Shia rivals. Ultimately, among the main aims of Fateh-linked groups is to ensure the continuation of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), an umbrella of paramilitary groups led by Iran-linked militias, the continuation, also, of the pro-Iran groups’ influence over key leadership positions within the PMF, and limited governmental oversight over the PMF.
Moqtada does not have enough seats by himself currently to be declared prime minister-designate. Some of what passes for 'reporting' in western outlets is not reporting and it is not factual.
As for Nouri's 'new' 'fortunes' and the surprise so many have over them? Nouri's a thug and we've long noted that here. Didn't stop us from noting last spring that his image was on the rise and that he would likely do very well in these elections. You're only surprised and see this as a new development if you're surprised and weren't paying attention. Mustafa has been a disaster for the Iraqi people. This, in turn, has made a lot more look fondly on Nouri than had previously.
That is not an endorsement from me for Nouri al-Maliki. A) I don't vote in Iraq. B) I don't care for Nouri al-Maliki.
However, noting that support was again building for Nouri was noting what was happening -- not what I wanted to happen, not what predicted would happen but what was actually happening.
It's a shame that so many outlets in the west are surprised by Nouri's victories. It's a shame because it underscores how useless and uninformed so much of their work in 2021 has been when it comes to Iraq.
This lavish praise for Moqtada -- like the earlier lavish praise for Mustafa -- is unwarranted and not at all factual.
That might mean something if you needed 74 seats in Parliament to be declared the prime minister-designate.
But, missing from all the hagiographic pieces the western media's filing on Moqtada, the reality is that you need 163 seats.
73 is a long way from 163.
And two weeks on yet Moqtada still appears to struggle forming deals, partnerships and alliances. They missed reality ahead of the election and now, after the election, the same outlets still struggle to comprehend reality. Moqtada may indeed end up pulling off the hat trick. However, at his present, not only has he not done so, he's shown no indication that he has the ability to do so.
The following sites updated: