Iraq’s prime minister-elect is a child of the Shiite political seraglio
Mohamed Chia al-Soudani, who was tasked with forming a new government in Iraq on Thursday, is a politician from the traditional Shia seraglio who has to contend with major opponents.
Mr Soudani, 52, has been a minister on several occasions and a deputy on two occasions, succeeding Moustafa al-Kazimi, a former journalist-turned-intelligence chief who rose to the helm of Iraq in a context of crisis.
Mr Soudani was born an orphan on March 4, 1970 at the age of nine to a father who was executed for his opposition to the old regime. Mr Soudani is a representative of that Shia political class that was once the spearhead of the opposition to Saddam Hussein and that came to power after the 2003 American invasion.
The graduate agricultural scientist rose through the ranks of the state apparatus in 2004 and became governor of the oil-rich province of Missane, which borders Iran.
In 2010 he started his career in Baghdad, was Minister for Human Rights, then for Social Affairs and even for Industry. Notably, he will be part of a government led by Nuri al-Maliki.
Also, Mr Soudani must form his government today with the support of Mr Maliki and his allies, the influential pro-Iran factions of the Coordination Framework.
Brush mustache and thick black hair cropped short, dressed in classic dark-colored suits, Mr Soudani has been campaigning since late July, meeting with opposition MPs and presenting an ambitious program to fight corruption and rebuild infrastructure ravaged by conflict.
It’s not the first time he’s run for prime minister. Expected in 2019, his name will be immediately rejected by a large and unprecedented protest movement denouncing the entire political class.
– “Next Generation” –
“He has neither a questionable past nor massive allegations of corruption against him,” admits Sajad Jiyad, a researcher at think tank Century International.
But for the anti-powers, “he doesn’t have a reputation as a reformer, he’s part of the political establishment, and that doesn’t mean he could be any different,” he adds.
When the Cooperation Framework nominated him as its candidate last July, the boisterous religious leader Moqtada Sadr rose up and mobilized thousands of protesters to obstruct the plans of the pro-Iranian factions.
To the Sadrists, Mr Jiyad continues, “He appears to be part of the camp of Maliki, Mr Sadr’s historical enemy. “They feel that he is there to defeat them politically.”
After asserting himself in Mr Maliki’s party, Mr Soudani founded his own party, Al-Furatain, in 2021, which is represented in Parliament by three MPs.
“He is a statesman,” the party’s deputy general secretary, Bashar al-Saidi, told AFP.
As if to placate Moqtada Sadr’s call for early elections, Mr Soudani has already warned that an election should be held “within a year and a half”. And he described the Sadristic movement as a “great popular and patriotic current”.
For political scientist Hamzeh Hadad, the prime minister-elect has “good relations with parties across the political spectrum”. Like Mr. Kazimi, he “represents the next generation of Iraqi politicians.”
Mr. Soudani is married and has five children.
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