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Three favorite Shiites to lead post-IS Iraq

Ⓒ AFP – Kazuhiro NOGI, HAIDAR HAMDANI, HADI MIZBAN – | From g. to right, the outgoing Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Tokyo on April 5, 2018, Hadi al-Ameri, leader of Hachd al-Shaabi, on October 5, 2015 in Najaf, and former Prime Minister Nouri al- Maliki in Baghdad on September 8, 2014

The outgoing prime minister, his predecessor dismissed four years ago, and ambushing paramilitary leaders who defeated the jihadists are the favorites of the first Iraqi elections after the victory over the Islamic State (IS) group.

Since the fall of Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003, the Constitution has given power to the prime minister, a post that falls to the Shiite majority.

However, due to a fragmented system established to avoid a return to autocracy, the winner of the May 12 vote will have to make alliances with other Shiite, Sunni or Kurdish lists to obtain a majority.

Two of the favorites can boast of being the architects of the victory over the jihadists who, in 2014, controlled a third of Iraq.

Current Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, 66, came to power in September 2014 in a beleaguered country. He was able to silence those who mocked his unbalanced physique and his military inexperience.

A graduate engineer in Britain, from the same Daawa religious party as his predecessor Nouri al-Maliki, he got his job thanks to the support of the Marjaïya, the Shia religious hierarchy, and an international consensus.

– Military victories –

Head of the army according to the Constitution, he has boosted the morale of tens of thousands of men with the help of foreign trainers.

This army has torn apart, with the support of an international coalition led by the United States, the “caliphate” of ISIS straddling Iraq and Syria, and taken over from the Kurds the rich oil province of Kirkuk.

Ⓒ AFP – AHMAD AL-RUBAYE – | Posters from candidates for Iraqi parliamentary elections in a street in Baghdad, April 19, 2018

For experts, Abadi is favorite. “He has a popular base that transcends denominational and ethnic backgrounds, he has a statesman’s speech and is not splashed by corruption,” political scientist Essam al-Fili said.

“He is the most serious competitor but he is not strong enough to win the majority,” said Fanar Haddad, associate researcher at the Middle East Institute at the University of Singapore. But “it has the advantage of the function that it occupies, can take advantage of the victory against the IS (…) and is acceptable by all the foreign parties involved in Iraq, from the Iranians to the Americans”.

Its main competitor is warlord Hadi al-Ameri, a leader in Hashd al-Shaabi, a crucial substitute in the victory over IS.

A cold-eyed man from Diyala province (center-east), a graduate in statistics from Baghdad University, he fled to Iran after Saddam Hussein’s execution of Ayatollah Mohammad Baqr in 1980. .

Aged 64, he is considered the man of Tehran. He fought alongside the Iranian forces in the war with Iraq (1980-1988) within the Badr organization founded in 1982, and only returned to Iraq after the fall of the dictator.

MP, Minister of Transport under Maliki (2010-2014), he failed to become Minister of the Interior in Abadi cabinet because of an American veto.

– Ameri “determining” –

After the jihadist breakthrough in 2014, he traded his civilian clothes for camouflage and found his front alongside his friend Qassem Sulaimani, in charge of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ external operations.

“I think that Ameri will have a decisive role in the post-election negotiations but the formation of the government will remain in the hands of Daawa and in all likelihood of Abadi,” said Mr. Haddad.

Ⓒ AFP – AHMAD AL-RUBAYE – | Posters from candidates for Iraqi parliamentary elections in a street in Baghdad, April 19, 2018

In addition to its military victory, the Hachd can boast today of having put its bulldozers at the service of the rehabilitation of infrastructure as in Basra or Sadr City face the incompetence of the State.

“I think that Ameri sees himself as the most likely to be the joker while Daawa divides, like the Prime Minister who can build a civil status with the same success that he led the military,” said M Fili.

The last competitor, Nouri al-Maliki, 68, gnaws his brakes since he was dismissed from his position in 2014. Daawa leader, he led the country from 2006 until the 2014 debacle against the EI. He is accused of marginalizing Sunnis and promoting corruption.

“He is trying to focus his efforts on areas where the Daawa party is strong and is trying to get closer to the Shiite armed groups to stay in the spotlight,” said Fili.

But, says Haddad, “the chances of Maliki suffered an irreversible blow because his mandate did not leave a good memory to the Iraqis”.

“The maximum he can hope for is playing the supporting roles with Ameri.”

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