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Iraqis protest against results in last week's elections Iraqis protest against results in last week's elections  (AFP or licensors)

Cardinal Sako urges Iraqi politicians to overcome gridlock

In the wake of Iraq’s parliamentary elections, the Chaldean Catholic Patriarch urges Iraqi politicians to be rational and calm tensions in order to break the political gridlock as parties jockey for influence.

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.

Supporters of a pro-Iran alliance protest elections results
Supporters of a pro-Iran alliance protest elections results

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.

Patriarch Sako at a press conference ahead of the Pope's visit in March 2021
Patriarch Sako at a press conference ahead of the Pope's visit in March 2021

Disappointed electorate

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.”

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19 October 2021, 15:30