After Iraq’s March 7, 2010 election the Sadrist Trend finished with a surprising 39 seats in the new parliament. They surpassed their coalition partners the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, the Fadhila Party, former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, and the Iraqi National Congress who received 20, 7, 1, and 1 seats respectively within the Iraqi National Alliance. That made the Sadrists ones of the largest parties, and a sought after coalition member to form a new government. As a result, shortly after the voting was concluded Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law, the Kurdish Alliance, and the National Alliance all sent delegations to Iran to consult with Moqtada al-Sadr who currently resides there. He quickly came out against Maliki repeating as prime minister. The Sadrists were instrumental in putting Maliki into his current position, but he turned on them in 2008 launching three large offensives against them in Basra, Baghdad, and Maysan provinces. To make Sadr’s opposition to Maliki publicly known, his movement announced a referendum for prime minister on April 2 and 3.
The results of the Sadrist referendum were made public on April 7. Ibrahim al-Jaafari came in first place with 24%, Jaafar al-Sadr from State of Law, the son of Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Sadr, the spiritual leader of the Dawa Party and the father-in-law of Moqtada, finished second with 23%, followed by Sadrist politburo leader Qusay al-Shuheil with 17%, Maliki with 10%, Iyad Allawi with 9%, Sadrist parliamentarian Baha al-Araji with 5%, Ahmad Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress with 3%, Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi of the Supreme Council received 2%, and Deputy Prime Minister Rafi Issawi of Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement was last with 2%. The Sadrists claimed that 1,428,000 people participated in their referendum. That would be around 700,000 more votes than the Trend received in the 2010 election for their candidates.
Results of Sadrist Referendum
Ex-Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari 24%
State of Law candidate Jaafar al-Sadr 23%
Sadrist leader Qusay al-Shuheil 17%
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki 10%
Ex-Prime Minister Iyad Allawi 9%
Sadrist parliamentarian Baha al-Araji 5%
Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmad Chalabi 3%
Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi 2%
Deputy Prime Minister Rafi Issawi 2%
The Sadrist vote was much like the primaries they held in October 2009, which allowed the movement to announce its decisions within the facade of moving towards democracy. Like the referendum, the movement claimed that around 1.5 million people were involved in their first ballot, even though the day before they claimed only 250,000 had registered. Like the primary, the referendum was meant to give the movement’s decision the appearance of a popular mandate. In both situations the Sadrist leadership likely agreed upon the outcome before any votes were cast.
Ultimately, the referendum allows the Sadrists to reject both Maliki and Allawi to repeat as the country’s leader. Both have major problems with their candidacies. Maliki has turned on just about everyone that was part of his original coalition that put him into power including the Sadrists, while Allawi’s list is considered too Sunni, and too close to former Baathists for many Shiites and Kurds. Because of their egos however, neither Allawi or Maliki is willing to step aside or share power. Rather both are intent on pushing themselves for as long as possible. A compromise candidate is probably needed in this situation just as Maliki was chosen in 2005 when the Sadrists and Supreme Council couldn’t agree upon a prime minister. What the referendum does is put forward a number of other possible candidates. Ibrahim al-Jaafari and Jaafar al-Sadr were both allegedly supported for the prime minister spot by the Sadrists before the referendum, so it should have been no surprise when they finished one and two in the election. Jaafari’s party was only able to win one seat in parliament, one for himself, while Jaafar al-Sadr is a political novice who just joined the political process. Both lack a popular base, which could be provided by the Sadrist trend. Both could also help unite the two main Shiite lists, the National Alliance and State of Law, as the backbone of a new government. Forming a ruling coalition is only in its infancy with the initial meetings between the leading parties having resulted in no breakthroughs. The Sadrists want to influence this process with its referendum since most of the major parties have gone to Iran to consult with Moqtada, making him a possible kingmaker. In the end, the movement is just one part of the equation, but an important element nonetheless with their surprising showing in the 2010 election.
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Arango, Tim, “Empowered Sadrists Organize New Ballot in Iraq,” New York Times, 3/31/10
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- “URGENT / Al-Jaffari wins Sadrists’ referendum,” 4/7/10
Al Jazeera, “Sadrists shun Iraq front-runners,” 4/7/10
Kazimi, Nibras, “About Those Sadrist Numbers,” Talisman Gate, 4/1/10
- “Sadrist Referendum Results,” Talisman Gate, 4/7/10
MEMRI Blog, “Iraq Votes – Part VI,” 3/17/10
Roads To Iraq, “Coalitions, negotiations and the making of a king,” 3/20/10
- “Three Sunni candidates for the presidency, Zebari to the Vice-President,” 1/17/10
Visser, Reidar, “Jaafari Wins the Sadrist Referendum,” Iraq And Gulf Analysis, 4/7/10