Cardinal Sako urges Iraqi politicians to overcome gridlock
By Devin Watkins
Iraqis voted in nationwide parliamentary elections on 10 October, leaving no party with an outright majority.
The Sadrist Movement, a coalition of parties led by Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, won around 73 seats in the 329-member parliament. That gives the bloc a decisive vote in choosing the next Iraqi prime minister.
Mr. al-Sadr said the Movement would seek “to form a non-sectarian and non-ethnic national coalition under the umbrella of reform.”
Plethora of parties
There were at least 167 parties backing over 3,200 candidates for parliamentary seats.
The Kurdistan Democratic Party ran independently and won 33 seats, making it the single largest political party.
The Fatah Alliance, a Shi’ite bloc with links to Iran, took only 14 seats, down 34 from the last election in 2018.
Political gridlock and wrangling
As the results rolled in, political wrangling has begun, with each party jockeying for influence in deciding the next prime minister.
The current PM, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, is not seeking re-election but could still return for a second term if a majority backs him.
With this background, the Patriarch of the Chaldeans has launched an appeal to all Iraqis and their politicians out of his “concern and love to our citizens and the homeland.”
Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako lamented the “political blockage” which, he said, serves no one’s interests.
Justice, not weapons
In a statement on the Chaldean Patriarchate’s website, he urged Iraq’s politicians to “return to the dialogue of the brave, by adopting rationality, calming down, and not intensification.”
The Cardinal reminded them that Iraq is “entrusted to you”.
“Winners have the right to rejoice,” he said, “but they do not have the right to ‘break’ the losers”.
Those who feel they have been unfairly treated, added Cardinal Sako, should turn to the judiciary rather than weapons.
In its final tally, the Electoral Commission announced that around 43 percent of the electorate cast ballots, or 9.6 million people, down around 2 percentage points from the last election in 2018.
Cardinal Sako called on Iraqi politicians to take note of this slump in voter turnout, saying that “the reluctance of the majority of citizens to vote expresses their disappointment.”
He repeated his call to calm, recalling that “ignoring civil peace, national unity, and the safety of civilians is a major sin.”
“In these difficult days,” concluded the Iraqi Cardinal, “I invite everyone to pray that God might have mercy on Iraq and ‘clear’ the storm.”