Shafaq News/ In a neo-classic Muqtada al-Sadr fashion, the leader of the Sadrist movement that has long dazzled the observers with his unorthodox political maneuvers, jolted the Iraqi political scene after months of deadlock at the selection of a new president of the republic. Plunging his Shiite rivals into an absolute pin, the maverick cleric adjourned the adjudication about what seemingly was a dead draw until beyond Ramadan. This tactic, according to observers, might inject dynamism, and probably life, into the clinically dead political scene after months of stasis, and put an end to the endless ebbs and flows that have bored the Iraqis since the October 10 election.
It is not yet clear whether Muqtada al-Sadr's tweet has declared a genuine "political reclusion" with his decision to withdraw – along with his entire bloc - from negotiations to elect a president and form a government that has been stalled since polls closed on October 10.
It is possible that al-Sadr, who undoubtedly intends to engage in unprecedented maneuvering, as well as millions of Iraqis eager for the moment of consensus, will pass the "Ramadan deadline," which lasts 40 days, as if they are following an exceptional series.
According to observers, Muqtada al-Sadr's maneuver may create a skylight in the existing political tension, as the House of Representatives failed for the third time to hold a session to elect a new president despite the unified efforts of the Homeland Rescue coalition, which brings the Sadrists together with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (K.D.P.) and al-Siyada alliance.
In this sense, the Sadrist deadline, if you will, represents a fireball hurled at the Coordination Framework, or the blocking one-third -as al-Sadr started calling it- and those who may ally with it, in the face of the challenge of forming the government and getting out of the bottleneck.
Farhad Aladin, chairman of the Iraqi Advisory Council, tweeted that al-Sadr "challenges competitors and wants to test partners," adding that the Coordination Framework has a month to persuade partners and form a government; otherwise, al-Sadr will make a comeback and take matters into his hands.
"While Muqtada al-Sadr will spend a quiet Ramadan during his political retreat," Aladdin predicted, "Ramadan will be full of political Iftars and televised talks."
For his part, Safaa al-Assadi, a member of the Sadrist movement, told Shafaq News agency that if the Coordination Framework fails to form a consensus government, the Sadrist movement will proceed with its project to form a national majority government.
He added that when al-Sadr met with Coordination Framework leaders at al-Fatah alliance leader Hadi al-Ameri's residence, he presented his project for forming a national majority government, and indicated that the goal is to correct the course of the political process, "Al-Sadr stressed that the inclusion of anyone in this government must be subject to conditions and regulations. Naysayyers can join the opposition. Muqtada al-Sadr also said that he might become an opposition if they refuse the majority government, which was rejected by all the forces of the Coordination Framework."
"Although the trilateral alliance (Sadrist, al-Siyada, K.D.P.) remains stable, al-Sadr has granted his partners permission and lifted restrictions, i.e., they are free to form a government with the Coordination Framework per its program. Furthermore, if they achieve a majority, the Sadrist bloc will be the first to attend the parliamentary session to vote for the president. We will not be a blocking one-third."
"After al-Sadr's tweet, question marks were raised regarding the forces accusing the Sadrist movement and its partners; how will you negotiate with them when you accused them of betraying and following external agendas?"
Hours after al-Sadr's tweet, al-Siyada alliance and K.D.P. announced their commitment to the Homeland Rescue Coalition and the continued partnership with the Sadrist bloc, noting in a joint statement that their commitment to partnership with the Sadrists is due to "the inability to create a strong government without it."
Former K.D.P. MP, Abdessalam al-Barwari, stated to Shafaq News agency that “al-Sadr is challenging the Coordination Framework. He is confidently saying that he was able to form the largest national group. Therefore, he is telling them: go ahead and form the government instead of disrupting political action.”
"The tweet revealed the survival of the trilateral alliance because the Sadrist movement presented a vision that led K.D.P. and al-Siyada to ally because they were convinced of its government program."
On the other hand, the leaders of the blocking one-third will work to seize the opportunity provided by the "Sadrist deadline", regardless of their suspicion or doubts about al-Sadr's intentions behind this political maneuver. Whereas the State of Law Coalition led by Nouri al-Maliki, one of the Coordination Framework's main poles, quickly announced that al-Maliki will begin contacting other political forces to discuss the possibility of starting a dialogue and pave the way for the formation of the next government.
"The Sadrist movement's leader has set a deadline of 40 days for the Coordination Framework to form a government in accordance with the other parties. As a result, the Coordination Framework will extend outreaches to other political forces to learn their position, either negotiating and forming a government or acting as a blocking one-third. So far, we have no idea where they are going, but this may change soon", Tha'er Mukheef, State of Law MP, told Shafaq News Agency.
"There is a high probability that this process will change the political chart extensively, and I think the Kurds may agree on a single presidential candidate."
"We have already made it clear as the Coordination Framework that no one will be excluded in the next government. Therefore, we hope that al-Sadr will participate in the government, and we will try to reach out to him about it," he added.
In sum, Iraqis will experience an unprecedented Ramadan, full of political challenges and maneuvers with countless possibilities and outcomes.
One of these outcomes is that the forces of the Coordination Framework may be crushed by the inability to form a government, recalling al-Sadr's words that his alliances have disappointed the parties impeding the formation of the government. “However, if Iraq remains without a government, security, the economy, services, and many other aspects will deteriorate. So, I'm allowing the blocking one-third to negotiate with all blocs, without exception, in order to form a national majority government."
It is known that electing the president requires the completion of a legal quorum in which the presence of deputies constitutes two-thirds of their number, i.e., more than 220 deputies out of 329.
So far, the required quorum has not been achieved in the three sessions due to the boycott of the Coordination Framework, which represents major Shiite parties, such as the State of Law Coalition and al-Fatah Alliance, the umbrella under which the pro-Iranian Popular Mobilization factions (P.M.F.) are affiliated.
It was clear that the prevailing tension prevented the usual atmosphere of brotherhood, reconciliation, and asceticism of the Muslims' holy month.
After Wednesday's parliamentary session was foiled, al-Sadr angrily addressed the Coordination Framework, "I will not agree with you. Consensus means the end of the country."
While al-Ameri stated, "We believe that the path of breaking wills and excluding other parties will not lead to the stability of Iraq."
Now, it can be said that no matter how much the "Sadrist deadline" seems like an opportunity, the Iraqis are promised an eventful Ramadan, and they can do nothing but wait and anticipate it with a lot of prayers.