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Electoral changes: Iraq's Shi'ite parties are likely heading towards renewed clashes

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani and Sayyid Ammar al-Hakim, head of the National Wisdom Movement, at the Christmas mass held at St Joseph Church in Baghdad, Iraq, on 24 December 2022. (Murtadha Al-Sudani/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The Iraqi government, headed by Prime Minister Mohammed Shia' al-Sudani, a former Islamic Dawa Party member, is supported by the Shia Coordination Framework (SCF), a hydra-headed coalition of competing Shi'ite parties and Iran-allied paramilitary groups.

Most of the SCF's actors are broadly unified by hostility to former Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi and the US, and persistent political and violent competition with the Shi'ite Sadrist movement and its paramilitary wing, Saraya Al Salam, in Baghdad, and across Iraq's central and southern governorates.

Between the national elections held in early October 2021 and the formation of the government by Sudani in late October 2022, the Iran-allied SCF parties and Sadrists, led by Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, were engaged in a protracted violent and political conflict over government formation, causing an unprecedented deadlock.

The period of time that it took to form a government was characterised by violent street and tribal mobilisation, as well as kinetic rocket and improvised explosive device (IED) attacks by militia networks against each other. There were also assassination attempts against local- and national-level politicians.

Following the US-led military invasion in 2003, in Iraq's consociational political system, Shi'ite parties appoint the prime minister, Kurdish parties elect the president, and the Sunnis appoint the parliament's speaker.

In challenging the sect-based system and other Shi'ite groups, Sadrists have attempted to position themselves as the primus inter pares by putting themselves on par with the SCF that includes all traditional Shi'ite parties minus the Sadrists.

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