Baghdad, Iraq – The election of Abdul Latif Rashid as Iraq’s new president ends months of political stalemate, and attention is now turning to forming a government – something politicians have been unable to do since general elections last October.
After being elected by parliament on Thursday, Rashid immediately appointed Mohammed Shi’i al-Sudani as Iraq’s prime minister.
Al-Sudani was nominated for the role by the Iran-backed Shiite coordination framework, which is now the largest parliamentary bloc.
But Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr vehemently rejected it, whose bloc was the biggest win in last year’s elections, but later withdrew from parliament because of his inability to form a government.
Al-Sudani’s nomination by the Coordination Framework on July 25 sparked some of the biggest protests in the capital, Baghdad since last year’s elections, with Sadr’s supporters breaking through the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad and storming the country’s parliament to demand the withdrawal of Al-Sudani’s candidacy.
He now has 30 days to form a government that can command a parliamentary majority, but his nomination by Rashid will lead to more unrest.
Who is the Sudanese?
Al-Sudani was born in southern Iraq in 1970. When he was ten years old, Saddam Hussein’s regime executed his father on charges of belonging to the Iranian-backed Islamic Dawa Party.
He later joined the Shiite uprisings in 1991 in the hope of overthrowing Saddam Hussein. Throughout this period, when many of Iraq fled to seek refuge in other countries, Al-Sudani remained in the country.
Those who remained in Iraq have a better understanding of the reality of Iraq, and [if appointed]He will be the first Iraqi to stay [under those circumstances] “Who might be given this opportunity,” said Muhannad Adnan, an Iraq-based political analyst.
After the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 that toppled Saddam Hussein, Al-Sudani held various positions in local and central governments.
In 2004, after the invasion, he became the mayor of the city of Amarah, then the governor of his hometown of Maysan.
Later, he served in several ministries in the governments of Nouri al-Maliki and Haider al-Abadi, including the position of Minister of Human Rights from 2010 to 2014, and Minister of Labor and Social Affairs from 2014 to 2018.
In 2020, in the wake of mass demonstrations aimed at a systematic change in Iraqi politics, Al-Sudani resigned from the Dawa Party, whose Secretary-General, Al-Maliki, has been plagued by allegations of corruption.
It is not clear exactly what prompted him to leave the Islamic Dawa Party, but many said it was mostly due to his desire to further his political career rather than abandoning the ideological position of the Islamic Dawa Party altogether.
“The [public] The mood was that Iraq wanted independence [prime minister candidate] “He resigned from the Dawa Party to be independent,” Muhannad Adnan said. He did not want to risk his political future, but also to put himself in the position of prime minister.
And while the Iraqi parliament scrambled to find a successor to former Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi after he resigned from his post in late 2019 following a bloody mass demonstration, Al-Sudani was considered alongside then-Interim Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi.
However, after he failed to meet the protesters’ demands for a candidate outside the ruling elite, Al-Sudani withdrew his bid for prime minister.
Al-Sudani is now the leader of the Euphrates Movement political party, which won three seats in parliament in last year’s elections, and later entered the Shiite coordination framework – Sadr’s largest rival bloc in parliament.
In June, Sadr’s 73 deputies resigned in a move likely aimed at pressuring his rivals to form a new government, but which led to the coordination framework becoming the largest parliamentary bloc and Sudan’s nomination.
On August 29, al-Sadr announced that he would leave politics permanently and said that all institutions associated with his party would be closed. His supporters stormed parliament again and at least 30 people were killed in fighting between Sadr’s supporters and his opponents.
Demonstrators who violated parliament in July and August said they were protesting against corruption, the ruling elite and foreign influence – chanting slogans against Nouri al-Maliki, whom they accuse of corruption and mismanagement, as well as against al-Sudani.
As a longtime enemy of Maliki, al-Sadr sees the former prime minister as a shadow master for the Sudanese, Zainab Shukr, an associate professor at Sam Houston State University, told Al Jazeera.
“Since the Sadrists view al-Sudani as al-Maliki’s man, they expect al-Sudani to promote al-Maliki’s agenda to target the interests of the Sadrist movement within the state and its institutions, and – by extension – the survival of the Sadrist movement itself. Shukr said that the movement that depends on its access to the rentier resources of the state to ensure the continuity of its legitimacy.
One of the things to watch moving forward is Al-Sudani’s ability to convince others – especially Sadr – that he is no longer – the Maliki man,” said Harith Hassan, a non-resident senior fellow at the Malcolm H. Kerr Carnegie Middle East Center.
Muhannad Adnan said Al-Sudani’s performance in his ministerial positions was generally well received by many other lawmakers in Parliament. He said that “the depth of his experience as a minister is probably unparalleled” in the current parliament.
He served as a minister during some of Iraq’s toughest economic conditions: from 2014 to 2018 when he was Minister of Labor and Social Affairs in the Haider al-Abadi government.And the The world oil price was at an all-time low, and the government had to make tough and unpopular economic decisions that kept the country afloat.
However, the current Iraqi political system is almost defunct: an economy that relies heavily on the oil industry and a political system that struggles to move away from ethno-sectarian power-sharing arrangements after 2003.
According to some analysts, Sudan’s previous record, no matter how effective, will not change this increasingly faltering system.
“If we accept [dysfunctional political hybrid and rentier system] And that the current limited overall and institutional capacity is the product of the oil-dependent economic system, and then a real change in the economic system must occur first.
However, Al-Sudani has no alternative economic or political policy.
For others, however, Al-Sudani’s economic and political achievements are less valuable in the current political standoff than his position as a moderate candidate who blatantly does not favor one side over the other.
Hamza Haddad, a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, told Al Jazeera that Al-Sudani “could prove to be the most suitable candidate” because he has less “political weight” than other candidates for prime minister under the coordination. Like al-Maliki or al-Abadi.
“A prime minister from the center will have the best chance of effectively implementing domestic and foreign policy.”