UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY) – Iran’s Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and Hadi al-Amiri, both of whose blocs occupied the first and second places in a row in Iraq’s parliamentary elections in May, announced the formation of a political alliance between the two blocs on Tuesday.
The declared coalition of the Shiite holy city of Najaf is the first serious step towards forming a new government after weeks of negotiations between the parties.
The announcement comes a month after elections held at a record low turnout level, with allegations of fraud.
Sadr and al-Amiri said the door was open to any other blocs winning to join them in forming a new government.
Sadr said the meeting with Amiri was very positive and that they met to end the suffering of the country, describing the new entity as a national alliance.
Despite the formation of the coalition, there is a big difference between the two men.
Sadr, a cleric who has led campaigns with violence against the US occupation that stopped in 2011, emerged as a national antagonist of powerful Shi’ite parties allied with Iran and pro-poor.
In the elections, Sadr supported the list of his followers, the Communist Party and other secular candidates.
Amiri, who speaks Persian fluently, is Iran’s closest ally in Iraq and spent two years in exile there during Saddam Hussein’s rule.
The al-Fath alliance, led by al-Amiri in the election, is composed of political groups linked to Shi’ite factions backed by Iran that helped government forces oust the Islamic state from the territory it seized in Iraq nearly four years ago.
A spokesman for the Fatah Alliance in a statement, “Fatah and the rest of the announce the nucleus of the largest bloc and call all the winning blocs to participate in this coalition according to the government program agreed to be appropriate to meet the challenges and crises and problems experienced by Iraq.”
The alliance, which won 101 seats in the parliament and needs 64 seats to win the majority and form a government, comes hours after Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called on politicians to continue consultations on forming a government despite an impending hand-to-hand recount. Al-Abadi’s coalition won the third place in the elections.
Parliament has demanded a nationwide recount, prompting calls for a re-election.
Abadi said on Tuesday he was opposed to re-election and cautioned that any party seeking to sabotage the political process would be punished.
Abadi may secure a second term as a compromise candidate if his bloc joins Sadr and al-Amiri and manages to get their support.
Abadi said the Supreme Court had the final say on whether to re-run the elections.
“The federal court will ultimately decide whether to ratify the results of all or some of the elections or not, the subject matter of the judiciary, I do not invite politicians and political blocs, but even the government and parliament have no power to cancel the elections and the results of the elections,
Iraqi television reported on Monday that a court had ordered the arrest of four people accused of setting fire to the ballot storage site.
Three of the suspects were police officers and the other was a member of the Electoral Commission, the television said.
Authorities say the ballot boxes have been rescued but the fire has heightened fears of violence.
Amiri said on Wednesday he supported a partial recount of votes.
At his weekly press conference, Abbadi described the blaze as intentional and said the attorney general would charge those who try to undermine the political process.
Sadr said some parties were seeking to drag Iraq into civil war, stressing that he would not participate.
Abadi thanked Sadr for the disarmament initiative he launched after an arms cache exploded in Sadr City, his stronghold in Baghdad, killing 18 people and said he hoped Sadr’s commitment.
Abadi said that what happened in Sadr City is very regrettable and that officials will receive fair punishment.
Sadr, who ordered a separate investigation into the incident, said on Tuesday he knew the culprit, now free, and said he would be brought to justice.