Iraqi PM seeks electoral alliance with Popular Mobilization Units

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BAGHDAD: Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi on Thursday held talks with leaders of Shiite-dominated paramilitary troops in an attempt to reach a deal to jointly participate in parliamentary and provincial elections due in May, Iraqi leaders involved in the talks told Arab News.

Getting the backing of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), which fought Daesh alongside the government for the past three years, is crucial for Abadi and his partners to secure a comfortable parliamentary majority to form the next government.

No agreement was reached in Thursday’s meeting, but talks will resume on Friday, politicians involved in the talks told Arab News.

“They’re still negotiating over many vital logistical and technical issues,” Naiem Abodi of the Shiite paramilitary group Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq told Arab News after the meeting. “Surprises could happen at the last minute.”

Three other leaders involved in the talks said on condition of anonymity that there are disagreements over the leadership of the proposed coalition, the formation of the next government and the affiliation of armed groups.

Thursday’s meeting was a setback for Abadi’s predecessor Nouri Maliki, who was counting on the PMU’s support to become prime minister again.

Abadi’s proposed coalition, “if it’s agreed to, won’t be an electoral alliance, but a bulldozer that will sweep the electoral arena and gain the majority of votes of Shiites and even Sunnis,” a senior Sunni politician told Arab News on condition of anonymity.

“Neither Al-Maliki nor any other rival figure will stand in its way.”
Maliki and Abadi both belong to the Islamic Dawa Party. Abadi replaced Al-Maliki as prime minister following widespread opposition to the latter’s desire for a third term after the capture by Daesh of almost a third of Iraq in 2014.

Dawa’s leadership initially decided to participate in the upcoming parliamentary election in a single list headed by Abadi.

But after Al-Maliki refused to be part of that electoral list, the part decided on two, one headed by him and the other by Abadi.
“We believe that each of them has an audience,” Abbas Mousawie, Maliki’s political adviser, told Arab News.

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