The meeting between Muqtada al-Sadr and the leaders of the Iranian-backed armed forces came after the Supreme Court dismissed their allegations of fraud.
Najaf, Iraq – Muqtada al-Sadr, a Shi’ite cleric who won Iraq’s October parliamentary elections, met with opponents of Hashed al-Shaabi, a former pro-Iranian paramilitary coalition, ahead of the opening of parliament on Wednesday.
The October 10 vote was rejected by the pro-Tehran Hasheed coalition, the Fatah (Conquest) coalition, but on Monday the Iraqi Supreme Court upheld the allegations of voter fraud.
This opens the way for parliament to convene and then elect a president to nominate a prime minister who will form a new government.
On Wednesday, Sadr received leaders such as Hadi al-Ameri, the leader of the Fatah coalition, Faleh al-Fayyad, a senior member of the Hashed group, and Qays al-Hazali, the leader of the Asayb Ahl al-Haq force, a key component of the Hashed. It took place in the Iraqi city of Najaf, according to the state news agency INA.
The leaders discussed the “political situation” and “the formation of the next government,” INA reported.
Al-Sadr, a former leader of the anti-US military who opposes political manipulation and all foreign interference, has already met with leaders of pro-Iranian parties earlier this month.
Iraq has struggled with years of war and jihadist violence, but is still plagued by political divisions, corruption and poverty.
Although Iraq’s Shi’ite-majority parties have compromised in the past to work together, Sadr has said he wants to form a coalition capable of forming a parliamentary majority.
Al-Sadr’s movement won more than one-fifth of the 739 seats in the assembly. The Fatah coalition won 17 seats, down sharply from 48 in the last session, and Hashed leaders withdrew from voting.
Al-Sadr, a self-defense activist against all forms of corruption, has repeatedly said he will elect the next prime minister through his own movement. Al-Sadr, a descendant of an influential religious family who led the US-led invasion of Iraq, differed from other Shi’ite groups in seeking to distance himself from Iranian and US influence.
The Iraqi Supreme Court on Monday rejected a motion by Hashed al-Shaabi to protest his defeat in the October 10 parliamentary elections.
The court’s decision is a major step forward, but it does not mean that the final results have been confirmed, said an election commission lawyer who attended the trial. It needs to be formally announced to confirm the results, after which a new parliament can be inaugurated and a new government can be formed.
The formation of a multi-religious, multi-ethnic government in Iraq involves complex negotiations that have been going on since 2003.
Al-Sadr was declared the biggest winner of the election on November 30, and Hashed party leaders called it a “fraud.” Hashed protested, calling it a “serious violation” and calling for the results to be annulled.
Fatah said the electronic voting system would not be able to recognize the fingerprints of many voters. They also protested that a new electronic car used in the election had broken down.
After the opening session of parliament, the legislature elects the president, who in turn appoints the prime minister for approval by the legislature.
Al-Sadr has previously called for the disbandment of pro-Iranian Shiite militias if they want to join his government.