BAGHDAD -- Hundreds of Iraqi lawmakers who form the largest bloc of Iraq's parliament quit on Sunday after a long political impasse that plunged the nation into political uncertainty.
Based on the request of Muqtada al-Sadr, the 73 legislators from Muqtada al-Sadr’s powerful Shiite cleric submitted their resignations to protest a political deadlock that had continued for eight months.
Mohammed Halbousi, Parliament Speaker, accepted their resignation.
Al-Sadr was a maverick leader who led an insurgency against U.S forces following the 2003 invasion. He emerged the winner of the October election.
In response to protests that broke out in the latter part of 2019, which saw thousands gather against corruption, poor services, and unemployment, the election was held months earlier than anticipated.
The vote was won by Muqtada Al-Sadr, a powerful Shiite cleric. He won 73 of the 329 Parliament seats. This was a major blow to his Iran-backed Shiite opponents, who lost around two-thirds of their seats. They have rejected these results.
Al-Sadr, with his allies, has been determined to form a majority government that excludes them. Al-Sadr has been unsuccessful in bringing enough lawmakers to parliament to obtain the two-thirds majority required to elect Iraq's next President -- an essential step before naming the next prime Minister and choosing a Cabinet.
Later, Speaker Halbousi tweeted that he had "reluctantly accepted" the resignations. These were based on al Sadr's wishes. He was discouraged from taking this step. He posted, "For the sake and the people, I decided to proceed with that decision."
It was unclear how the resignation of parliament's largest bloc would unfold. Veteran Iraqi politician expressed concern about the possibility of chaos within the country if the largest bloc in parliament resigns.
Iraqi law states that if a seat in Parliament becomes vacant, the candidate with the most votes from their district would take its place.
This would benefit al-Sadr’s enemies from the so-called Coordination Framework. A coalition led by Iran-backed Shiite party and their allies. Al-Sadr wouldn't be able to accept this.
Already there are concerns that tension and the stalemate could escalate into street protests by al-Sadr supporters, which could lead to violence between them or rival Shiite militias.
Al-Sadr is one of Iraq's most powerful political leaders, with a large following. He has often alluded to Saraya Salam's capabilities, which recently opened up the doors for recruits from Babylon and Diyala.