After Moqtada al-Sadr announced that he was retiring in February 2014 there was much speculation about what that meant for Iraqi politics. Several of his followers in parliament and provincial councils resigned making some believe that his party would be dissolved. However, the rhetoric from the movement quickly changed after Sadr gave a speech calling for everyone to participate in this year’s balloting. Afterward the withdrawals were reversed and his Ahrar (Liberal) bloc announced that it would re-organize and compete in the vote. This all proves that Sadr’s move was a tactical one to prepare for the up coming election.
Moqtada al-Sadr’s goal has become much more apparent since he announced his retirement on February 15. After several of his parliamentarians and councilmen said that they were resigning to follow his lead those moves have since been reversed. The organization’s political leadership was reshuffled with lawmaker Bahaa Araji replaced by Mushreq Naji. A new Board of Trustees was created as well consisting of Ahrar Secretary General Diyah al-Asadi, Housing Minister Sahib Darraji, Maysan Governor Ali Dway Lazem, and Baghdad Governor Ali al-Tamimi. In Sadr’s speech explaining his quitting politics he mentioned Lazem and Tamimi as two of his politicians who were honest and worthy of support. Finally Asadi said that Ahrar would compete in the April elections, just without Sadr being its official leader, and that the party would reform itself beforehand. The removal of Araji was part of that. Rather than being a step away from politics Moqtada’s decision was actually a move to get his list ready for the April elections. It’s cleaned house a little with the removal of Araji, and has a new leadership group of people that Sadr has trust in.
Sadr’s retirement was the latest move in his attempt to challenge Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and prevent him from a third term. Sadr and his politicians have been talking about this for a while now. Many times it appeared like Ahrar was just sniping at Maliki, but didn’t want to make a real move against him. After the 2013 provincial election however Ahrar worked with other parties to shut out the prime minister’s State of Law from several provinces. Now it appears Sadr is ready to take the premier head on in April.
Al Dhargam, Ali, “Bahaa al-Araji disqualification from the presidency of the Liberal bloc and the designation of Naji in his place,” Buratha News, 2/20/14
Al Mada, “Secretary-General of Independents: We agreed with leader to continue to work, and his speech is a political constants,” 2/20/14
National Iraqi News Agency, “Breaking News..Mushriq Naji Named a New Head of al-Ahrar Bloc,” 2/20/14
Al Rafidayn, “Liberals make up a Board of Trustees to lead the next phase of the political bloc,” 2/20/14
- “Naji: Some MPs in the Liberal bloc withdrew their resignations and the rest soon will follow,” 2/21/14