Iraq’s parliament has sworn in scores of new legislators following the mass resignation of 73 previous members. 

Why did the 73 resign? 

In response to a protracted political deadlock over the formation of the country’s next government, the 73 unanimously resigned earlier this month. Following the elections on October 10, which handed influential Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr a parliament majority, the unusual walkout, which was at his request, added more uncertainty to the situation in Iraq. 

What did he aim to achieve with the request? 

Al-Sadr won the election, but has since been embroiled in a power struggle with Iranian-backed rival Shiites within his own group and has been unable to put together a majority-governing coalition. In an effort to end the eight-month deadlock, he demanded the resignation of lawmakers from his parliamentary bloc two weeks ago, a move that puts him out of parliament for the first time since 2005. 

What’s their next move? 

Had Al-Sadr and his group succeeded in putting together a majority government, the current quota-based (muhasasa) system, which is used to share power between Shia, Sunni, and Kurdish groups, would have undergone an unparalleled change as a result. Al-Sadr’s exit may seem to indicate that he has given up taking part in Iraq’s increasingly complicated political system, but that’s not likely. Al-Sadr will still have political influence, whether or not his loyalists are in the legislature. 

Lawmaker Muhammad Saadoun Sayhod, a member of the Rule of Law coalition (Al-Sadr’s main opponents), expressed optimism that the formation of a new government would begin soon. “We will now start the process of electing the President and naming the Prime Minister from the Coordination Framework,” he said, amid fears that Al-Sadr’s supporters might take to the streets in the days ahead. 

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