Dozens of Iraqi lawmakers resign 8 months after general election

Seventy-three lawmakers who make up the biggest bloc in Iraq's parliament resigned on Sunday amid a prolonged political impasse eight months after the general election.

73 lawmakers from Shia cleric's bloc step down to protest political deadlock

Lawmakers belonging to Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's bloc prepare to attend a parliamentary session in Baghdad on March 26. On Sunday, 73 Iraqi lawmakers resigned amid a political impasse eight months following the general election. (Hadi Mizban/The Associated Press)

Dozens of lawmakers who make up the biggest bloc in Iraq's parliament resigned on Sunday amid a prolonged political impasse eight months after a general election was held.

The 73 lawmakers from Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's bloc submitted their resignations, based on his request, to protest a political deadlock.

Al-Sadr's party was the holder of the most seats in parliament following the October election, increasing its number to 73. But political disagreement among parties has hindered parliament from electing a president and forming a government.

Al-Sadr, a populist who has positioned himself as a staunch opponent of both Iran and the United States, said in a handwritten statement that his request to lawmakers to resign was "a sacrifice from me for the country and the people to rid them of the unknown destiny."

Soon after, Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi accepted the resignations.

The general election was held several months earlier than expected, in response to mass protests in late 2019, and saw tens of thousands rally against what they saw as endemic corruption, poor services and unemployment.

Election results rejected by Al-Sadr's rivals

Al-Sadr's Shia rivals lost about two-thirds of their seats and have rejected the election results.

He has been intent on forming, along with his allies, a majority government that excludes them. But he hasn't garnered the support of enough lawmakers to get the two-thirds majority needed to elect Iraq's next president, a necessary step ahead of naming the next prime minister and selecting a cabinet.

It wasn't immediately clear how the resignation of the biggest bloc in parliament would play out. According to Iraqi laws, if any seat becomes vacant, the candidate who obtains the second-highest number of votes in their electoral district would replace them.

Al-Sadr's opponents are from the Coordination Framework, a coalition led by Iran-backed Shia parties, and their allies.

There are concerns the stalemate and tension could boil over and lead to street protests by supporters of al-Sadr.

With files from Reuters