In a surprise move, Iraqi Prime Minister Hayder Abadi has announced that “militia leaders” will be forbidden from running as candidates in the upcoming May 15 elections, both for members of parliament and for provincial posts.
Abadi says that he believes it is vital for there to be a “clear separation” between political groups and armed militias, and promised a safe environment for Iraqis to cast their elections on May 15.
The notion of separation of armed factions and political parties is an unfamiliar one within Iraq, as since the 2003 US invasion and occupation the government has been dominated mostly by politicians with deep militia ties to them, and this line has gotten no less blurry since Abadi took office.
The big question then becomes how this measure will be interpreted and enforced, and in particular who gets to decide which side of the political party/militia line various factions fall. This could have broad ramifications, as certain obvious militia groups, like the Badr Brigades, have substantial seats within the current parliament, and have held key cabinet positions. The Dawa Party has similarly got a long history as an armed faction, and between the two of them, a ban could effectively gut the ruling State of Law Coalition.