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What Iraq’s Election Outcome Might Mean

Al-Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 20

Now that the elections in Iraq have concluded we can take a moment to reflect on their outcome and the new balance of power established in the Iraqi parliament. There is no doubt that the biggest winner of these elections is Muqtada al-Sadr, an Iran sympathizer who turned into an Iraqi nationalist, whose Shia militias were incorporated into the Iraqi army. Al-Sadr’s campaign called for national unity and the coming together of all tribes and religious groups in Iraqi society. His party, the Sairoon Alliance, won the majority of seats in the parliament, likely making Al-Sadr the next prime minister. However, he cannot run the country alone since none of the parties won an absolute majority. Sadr will thus have to form a partnership with his colleagues in the Fatah Alliance, a competing Shiite party, as well as with the Islamic Dawa Party, led by current Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. Al-Sadr is a new player in the Iraqi political arena, whereas Abadi, who has ruled Iraq for nearly four years, is a seasoned politician with an extensive network of supporters and allies. However, he failed to secure the number of seats his party was expected to win. Although this new reality seems like it might lead to instability and volatility, it also holds some promising prospects for unity. These three parties will have to work together in order to form the next government, making each leader more likely to make concessions. The Sairoon Alliance, the Fatah Alliance, and The Dawa Party will have to put aside their differences and unite around the most burning issues on the political agenda. Chief among them are the continuous fight against corruption; improving Iraq’s relations with its neighbors; and counter-terrorism efforts throughout the country. A message of unity and harmony is what Iraq so desperately needs, and what this new balance of power might indirectly create. –Hassan Mustafa