Sadrists Resign Parliament, But Sadr’s Influence in Iraq Endures

Sadr aims to break election stalemate, but next steps are unclear

The October 10 election in Iraq saw Moqtada al-Sadr’s party win a plurality of 73 seats. All deadlines have passed, and Sadr failed to form a government. This weekend, all 73 MPs resigned, recognizing the stalemate. What happens next is the real question.

Iraq’s parliamentary system lends itself to close finishes and long struggles to form coalitions. Sadr tried to align with the Kurdish Democrats and a Sunni Arab bloc, but never had enough votes to overcome boycotts of sessions by the rival Shi’ite State of Law to form a government.

State of Law, led by former premier Nouri al-Maliki, tried to force a unity government including them as well, but Sadr resisted, saying that his party’s anti-corruption platform would be undercut by governing alongside the old parties.

The resignation prevents that, and also puts the Sadrists out of parliament. State of Law is expected to gain seats to replace the Sadrists in parliament, and might conceivably be able to form a government.

Sadr is out of parliament, but his influence may be bigger than ever. Sadr has huge influence, with hundreds of thousands of followers he can call into the streets at a moment’s notice.

These followers may preclude anyone from forming a government after the Sadr resignation, as it would be a weak coalition with little mandate, facing immediate, huge unrest.

It’s not clear what path anyone intends to go down right now, but the options are to try to govern as best they can, or admit the October vote won’t result in a government and try to hold new elections. Either way, Sadr and his party loom large.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of