TEHRAN (Press Shia) – Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and head of the country’s Badr Organization Hadi al-Amiri, who won first and second place respectively in Iraq’s May parliamentary election, announced on Tuesday an alliance between their political blocs.
The move announced from the holy city of Najaf is the first serious step towards forming a new government after weeks of negotiations between parties.
The two Shiite figures said they would keep the door open for other winning blocs to join them in forming a new government.
“Our meeting was a very positive one, we met to end the suffering of this nation and of the people. Our new alliance is a nationalist one,” Sadr said, Reuters reported.
“Fatih and Saeroon announce forming the nucleus of the largest bloc and call on all winning blocs to participate in this alliance under a government program agreed upon by all that is suitable to face the challenges, crises, and problems facing Iraq,” a Fatih spokesman said in a statement.
The alliance, which together has 101 seats, 64 short of the majority needed to form a government, came hours after Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, whose own bloc came third, urged politicians to keep negotiating over government formation despite an impending nationwide manual recount of votes.
Parliament mandated the recount after Abadi said a government report showed there were serious violations.
A few days later a storage site housing half of Baghdad’s ballot boxes caught fire, raising tensions and prompting some to call for the election to be repeated.
Abadi said on Tuesday he opposed a repeat, echoing the stances of Sadr and Amiri, and warned that anyone who tried to sabotage the political process would be punished.
“The matter is exclusively in the hands of the judiciary, not politicians. The government and parliament don’t have the power to cancel the election,” Abadi said of a repeat.
The government report had recommended a recount of 5 percent of votes but the outgoing parliament, in which over half of lawmakers including the speaker lost their seats, instead voted for a nationwide one.
Amiri said on Tuesday he supported only a partial recount.
Abadi called the fire a deliberate act and said the attorney general would bring charges against those who are trying to undermine the political process.
An Iraqi court ordered the arrest of four people accused of setting fire to the storage site. Three of them were policemen and one an employee of the elections commission.
Abadi said a preliminary report had provided evidence of gasoline at multiple areas inside the storage site. It also showed that security cameras had been disabled and no locks had been broken, implying it was carried out by someone with access to the storage site.
Iraqi authorities said the ballot boxes had been rescued but the fire has fueled fears of violence.
Sadr has warned that certain parties are trying to drag Iraq into a civil war, adding that he would not participate in one.