Sixteen political groupings in Iraq, including those of Shia cleric Muqtada al Sadr and outgoing Prime Minister Haider al Abadi, reached an accord to create the biggest bloc in parliament, capable of forming a new government.

Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al Sadr, whose bloc came first, looks at Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi, whose political bloc came third in a May parliamentary election, during a news conference in Najaf, Iraq June 23, 2018.
Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al Sadr, whose bloc came first, looks at Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi, whose political bloc came third in a May parliamentary election, during a news conference in Najaf, Iraq June 23, 2018. (Alaa Al-Marjani / Reuters)

Iraqi lawmakers led by cleric Muqtada al Sadr and Prime Minister Haider al Abadi said on Sunday they created an alliance that would give them a majority bloc in the new parliament after four months of political uncertainty.

The new government is tasked with rebuilding the country after a three-year war with Daesh militants and balancing relations between Iraq's two biggest allies: arch-rivals Iran and the United States.

Iraqis voted in May in their first parliamentary election since the defeat of Daesh's self-declared caliphate, but a contentious recount process delayed the announcement of final results until last month.

Uncertainty over the composition of the new government has raised tensions at a time when public impatience is growing over poor basic services, high unemployment and the slow pace of rebuilding after the war with Daesh.

The recount delayed the process by three months but showed little had changed from the initial results, with Sadr, a populist Shia cleric, retaining his lead of 54 seats. Abadi's bloc remained third with 42.

The alliance that was announced on Sunday includes 177 lawmakers from 16 electoral lists, a document published by the state news agency showed. It is now in the lead position to form a government.

Iraq's parliament contains 329 seats and is set to convene on Monday, when it will elect a speaker and launch the government formation process.

The new alliance includes the blocs of Vice President Ayad Allawi and Shia cleric Ammar al Hakim, as well as several Sunni Muslim lawmakers and ones representing Turkmen, Yazidi, Mandaean and Christian minorities.

It does not include Kurdish groups. Since Saddam Hussein was toppled in a 2003 US invasion, power has been shared among Iraq's three largest ethnic-sectarian components. The prime minister is a Shia Arab, the speaker of parliament a Sunni Arab and the president a Kurd.

Also absent is a political bloc led by militia commander Hadi al-Ameri made up of Shia paramilitary groups that came second with 48 seats and that of former Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki, who came in fifth with 25. Ameri and Maliki are Iran's two most prominent allies in Iraq.

The past few days have seen Sadr and Abadi on one side racing to form a majority before Ameri and Maliki were able to do so. Politicians allied with Ameri and Maliki have suggested the announced majority might fall apart and hinted at imminent defections to their camp.

Source: Reuters