Iraq’s Sairoon Alliance led by Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr is in talks to form a coalition with the Nasr alliance led by outgoing Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, along with two other parliamentary groups.
The parliamentary blocs of Sadr-backed Sairoon and Abadi’s Nasr met on Sunday with the Hikma bloc led by Shia cleric Ammar al-Hakim and the Wataniyya bloc led by former prime minister Iyad Allawi, in Baghdad to discuss forming the largest alliance that would form a government for the next four years.
After the meeting, the four blocks announced late on Sunday a preliminary agreement to form a coalition.
“We agreed today to form a core for an alliance, seeking to form a parliamentary bloc that can form the government. We have decided at this meeting to open up to our other partners to contribute together in the formation of this (largest) alliance,” said the blocs in a statement on Sunday.
The announcement also confirmed the blocs’ commitment to taking an anti-sectarian approach to the process of forming a new government.
“The coalition is determined to work hard to build a state of citizenship, justice, equality and the provision of a decent life for all our people,” the statement said.
Confirming the progress of the talks, Kadhim al-Shimmary, a leading figure in the Wataniyya bloc told Al Jazeera: “We had a successful meeting and agreed to form a coalition among us.
“We are now waiting to see if we will be able to form the largest bloc,” he added.
The announcement came as Iraq’s Supreme Court ratified the final results of the May 12 parliamentary elections, setting in motion a 90-day constitutional deadline for the top parties to form a coalition government.
Many Iraqis disputed the results of the vote, alleging widespread electoral misconduct but a nationwide recount of votes on August 10 did not change the number of seats Sadr’s bloc won.
According to the commission, only one seat from Iraq’s Baghdad Coalition had moved to the second-placed Al-Fatih bloc, giving it 48 instead of 47 assembly seats.
But while Sadr retained his lead, his potential alliance with Abadi’s bloc and the others does not grant him the 50 percent plus one – or at least 165 seats – needed to form a majority bloc.
The Sairoon alliance won the largest number of parliamentary seats at 54, while the Nasr alliance, which came in third place, won 42 seats.
Together with the Hikma bloc, which won only 19 seats, and Allawi’s Wataniyya bloc, which won 21 seats, the potential alliance has 137 seats – 28 seats short of a majority bloc.
Commenting on the coalition forming, Iraqi analyst Jassim Moussavi said despite this shortcoming, the alliance was likely to form a strong bloc that could place it in a position to gain support from other groups in order to form the new government.
“These blocs have a lot in common including their anti-sectarian approach and inclination towards garnering strong relations with all regional powers,” Moussavi told Al Jazeera.
“It is quite likely that they will be able to form the largest bloc and hence the new government,” he added, saying that if this group was to remain allied, it would likely announce Abadi – an ally of both the United States and Iran – as its candidate for prime minister.
In a televised speech earlier on Sunday, al-Abadi called on the political blocs to accelerate their negotiations, and on Iraqi President Fuad Masoum to invite the new parliament to hold its first session soon.
Following the Supreme Court’s ratification of final results, incoming MPs are now expected to hold a first session to elect a new assembly speaker.
Within 30 days of that first session, a two-thirds majority of the assembly will elect the country’s next president, who will then task the largest bloc in parliament with drawing up a government.
The new government will have to be referred back to parliament for approval.