Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi and powerful Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr announced they have agreed on a political coalition in an effort to form a new government in the wake of elections in May.
The two men on June 23 announced the coalition in a joint statement after the prime minister traveled to the Shi’ite shrine city of Najaf to meet with the cleric.
Sadr's political bloc, which includes communists, won 54 seats in the legislative elections, making it the largest grouping in Iraq's 329-seat parliament. Abadi's bloc came in third with 42 seats.
Their statement said the alliance "transcends sectarianism and ethnic" issues "in order to speed up the formation of the new government and agree on the principles which serve the aspirations of our people."
The deal with Abadi could lead Sadr to forming a grand coalition. He has already struck a coalition deal with the second-place bloc (with 47 votes) led by Hadi al-Amiri, a Shi’ite militia leader who enjoys the support of Iran.
The statement with Abadi, however, did not mention the Amiri deal, although Sadr said it was "in harmony" with existing agreements.
Abadi and Amiri are reportedly both seeking the prime minister post, and negotiations are expected to last for weeks or months. Sadr is not a member of parliament or a part of government.