Baghdad – Iraqi anti-US military presence in Iraq cleric Muqtada Al Sadr ordered his political commission to conduct a referendum among his supporters to choose Iraq’s next prime minister.
Iraq’s March 7 elections showed a razor-thin advance of former premier Ayad Allawi, 91 seats, to the incumbent Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, 89 seats, meaning the two parties need to work coalitions to win a majority that enable them to form the government.
Another result of elections in Iraq; Sadr followers are the new king-makers, a former stature reserved for Kurds that came number four in this elections.
“This is a message that the name of the Prime Minister is at the hand of Sadr bloc” Said Haider Al Musawi, apolitical analyst and head of sociologist research center.
Sadr followers are part of the Shiite alliance that came third in Iraqi elections gaining 70 seats, most of the seats are the share of Sadr, 39 seats.
The referendum is to take place on Friday and Thursday this week and will ask the followers of Al Sadr to choose one of five candidates. The winner will gain the support of Sadr bloc in the parliament. This move comes after reported visits of Iraqi politicians to Sadr in his exile in Iran.
“Nouri Al Maliki and Allawi were candidates in one province, we want to ask the Iraqi people in all provinces” Said Hazim Al Araji, a leading cleric of the Sadr movement in a press conference held in Baghdad today.
The five candidates are: Nouri Al Maliki, Ayad Allawi, Vice president Adel Abdul Mahdi, former prime minister Ibrahim Al Jafary and Mohamed Jafar Al Sadr son of a killed cleric by Saddam. The ballot paper will leave the sixth choice blank so the supporter of Al Sadr will choose any other candidate they seek.
Monitors and political analysts see this move as the announcement by Al Sadr that we are the one who will determine who get to lead the country and possibly a move to isolate Al Maliki who announced earlier that the merger between the two blocs is imminent and “with no doubt”.
“Until this moment there is no decision to merge the two blocs” said sheik Salah Al Ubeidi, a spokesman for the movement. The merger is necessary for any other bloc that is willing to oust the winning bloc of Ayad Allawi.
A team for Iraq’s electoral commission will help the Sadr party to organize the referendum that will take place all over the country. Sadr movement conducted primary elections last year to choose their candidates to the parliament.
“This movement is a message to all candidates; who wants to be the Prime Misnister should come and negotiate with us” Al Musawi said.