Iraq’s parliament has sworn in dozens of new lawmakers to replace a bloc loyal to Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
According to the assembly’s media office, 64 new members of parliament were sworn in on Thursday, while nine seats still remain vacant in the assembly.
Shia lawmaker Ahmed Rubaie said the new coalition was now the main force in the 329-seat parliament.
“Following the Sadr lawmakers’ resignation, we can confirm that we are the largest bloc in parliament with around 130 seats after the swearing in of the new lawmakers,” Rubaie told reporters.
The development came on the heels of mass resignation of 73 Sadrist parliamentarians two weeks ago after months of stalemate over forming a new government, nearly eight months after parliamentary elections.
Sadr called the en bloc resignation “a sacrifice made towards emancipation of the nation from an ambiguous fate,” referring to the impasse.
Members of the movement then handed in their resignations in al-Hannana, the headquarters of the political party in the holy shrine city of Najaf.
“The country’s reform will only take place with a national majority government,” Sadr said in a televised statement, adding, “If the survival of the Sadr bloc is an obstacle to the formation of the government, then all representatives of the bloc are ready to resign from parliament.”
“Iraq needs a government backed by a majority that serves the people,” the prominent cleric said.
Sadr’s party was the biggest winner in the October general elections and was expected to sideline other rivals who had dominated politics in Iraq for years. However, the existing political disagreement among parties impeded parliament from electing a president.
On June 12, Iraq’s Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi accepted mass resignation of lawmakers faithful to Sadr.
"We have reluctantly accepted the requests of our brothers and sisters, representatives of the Sadr bloc, to resign," al-Halbousi tweeted.
The country has been without a government since parliamentary elections in October. Sadrists exceeded their fellow aspirants by winning as many as 73 seats in the contest.