NAJAF, IRAQ: Influential Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr, the big winner in initial results from Iraq’s election last month, on Thursday called on the “losers” not to disturb the war-scarred country’s democratic process.
His appeal came after weeks of tensions that peaked in early November when an explosives-laden drone hit the residence of Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhemi, in what his office called an assassination attempt.
Final results of the October 10 legislative ballot have still not been announced. But the Conquest (Fatah) Alliance, the political arm of the pro-Iran Hashed Al-Shaabi, suffered a decline in seats from 48 to around 15, leading it to denounce the outcome as “fraud.”
The Hashed is a paramilitary network now integrated into the regular forces.
Sadr, who campaigned as a nationalist and critic of Iran, was the big winner with more than 70 of the 329 seats, according to the initial count.
At a press conference, he addressed “political forces who consider themselves the losers of these elections” and said their defeat “should not open a path to the ruin of Iraq’s democratic process.”
What they are doing, he added, “will only accentuate the people’s rejection of you.”
No group claimed responsibility for the drone attack in which Kadhemi was unhurt.
It occurred two days after security forces clashed with supporters of Iran-backed parties near the high-security Green Zone, where Kadhemi lives.
Despite their electoral losses, the Hashed will remain a political force as the country’s myriad of factions engage in marathon negotiations to form alliances and name a new prime minister.
Sadr, however, reiterated the necessity of forming a majority government, saying: “Our options, as an individual or entity, are either as a majority government or opposition.”
Since the election Sadr, who once led a militia against American and Iraqi government forces, has repeatedly said that the future prime minister should be from his party.
Experts say he could try to build a parliamentary majority by allying with groups outside of the Shiite community.
The new government, elected in a ballot with record-low turnout, will take power in a country mired in corruption and economic crisis.