A: Mohammed Al Halbousi founded Iraq’s Taqqadum party, which belongs to the Sunni bloc. His party made significant gains in last October’s election and his alliance with the Sadrist bloc puts him in a powerful position in talks on forming a government. Al Halbousi became Iraq’s Speaker of Parliament in 2018. However, on Wednesday, September 28, 2022, Al Halbousi submitted his resignation.
Q: Why did the Iraqi Parliament speaker resign?
A: Al Halbousi’s resignation comes amid the Iraqi Parliament’s ongoing struggle with political gridlock. Some analysts and Iraqi politicians see the move as a “vote of confidence,” if the resignation is denied by the parliament.
Q: What groups are involved in the political gridlock, and who are the allies?
A: There were four primary blocs in the Iraqi Parliament: Sadrists, Sunni bloc, Kurdish bloc, and the Iranian-backed Coordination Framework. The Sadrists, prior to their mass withdrawal from parliament at the direction of Muqtada al-Sadr, were allied with Halbousi’s Taqqadum and the Kurdish Democratic Party. The main oppositional group to Sadr was the Coordination Framework.
Following the withdrawal of Sadrist members from the parliament, the Sadrists sent an appeal to invalidate their resignation. This would allow them to return to office. However, the Iraqi Federal Supreme Court rejected their appeal. Thus, with Sadrists out of the parliamentary picture, there is a potential for recalibration of alliances between the remaining blocs.
Q: Did the Iraqi Parliament accept the resignation?
A: No, parliament voted to renew confidence in Halbousi by a vote of 222-13, rejecting his resignation. Iraqi political analysts stated that the renewal of confidence was “predictable,” and many believe that, since his resignation was not in writing, the move was a method to cement Halbousi’s legitimacy.
Q: Why does Halbousi need to cement his legitimacy?
A: With Sadrists out of the picture, Halbousi was left to find new allies in the parliament. According to Farhad Alaaldin, an analyst who runs the Iraqi Advisory Council, Halbousi’s resignation was “a smart move on the chess board of Iraqi politics,” as Halbousi desired to renew his term and prevent future attempts to remove him from his post.
Q: What are the reactions of the Sadrist movement to this development?
A: Recently, clashes between Sadrists and Asaib Ahl al-Haq, a Shia group aligned with Iran, have intensified in the city of Basra. Sadrists have been targeting the presidential palace complex and the headquarters of Asaib Ahl al-Haq.
The goal of these attacks is to restrict the revenues of Al Sadr’s political rivals, as Basra is a central hub of Iraqi oil production. According to a senior Saraya al-Salam commander serving in Basra, all political forces and armed factions live off of Basra’s resources, and “depriving them of their most vital economic resources will break them.”
Q: What does this mean for the political future of Iraq?
A: According to Sunni politician Mishaan Al Jabouri, the rejection of Halbusi's resignation serves to reaffirm confidence in Halbousi. Moving forward, as both Kurds and Sunnis look for allies to replace Sadrists, reports indicate that the Coordination Framework is planning a coalition with Kurds and Sunnis to expedite government formation. This move has a great potential to antagonize Sadr and his supporters, as he warned that government formation cannot go ahead unless parliament is dissolved.