The Supreme Judicial Council of Iraq, the country’s highest judicial body, announced on Sunday that it did not have the authority to unilaterally dissolve the Council of Representatives, the country’s parliament—refusing to carry out a demand from influential Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to dissolve parliament in order to hold new elections and preserve stability in the country.
The council claimed in a statement that, as a co-equal branch of government, it “[did] not have the authority to dissolve parliament [and cannot] interfere in the work of the legislative or executive authorities.”
The statement acknowledged, however, that Iraq’s current political crisis—in which the country’s parliament has been unable to elect a president or prime minister for ten months, marking the longest period without a functioning government since the U.S.-led invasion of 2003—as an “unacceptable situation that must be remedied.”
Iraq’s ongoing political crisis began in October 2021, after the Sadrist Movement, Sadr’s political bloc, won a decisive victory in Iraq’s general election, giving it the largest share of seats within the Council of Representatives. However, due to Iraq’s fragmented political situation, the Sadrist movement was unable to secure a two-thirds majority to select Iraq’s next president, resulting in a months-long impasse.
In order to break the deadlock, all of Sadr’s lawmakers resigned on the same day in June, paving the way for the Coordination Framework to gain a majority but threatening to disrupt the government through mass demonstrations if it attempted to pursue a pro-Iran agenda or appoint a president and prime minister deemed to be sympathetic to Tehran. After the Coordination Framework attempted to do so anyway, Sadr’s adherents stormed parliament, obstructing it and extending the political crisis to the present.
The unprecedented deadlock has led the process of forming a government to exceed the time frame allotted in Iraq’s 2005 constitution, creating a crisis that the country’s existing laws appear unable to solve. In the ten months without effective government, the Iraqi government’s already-limited social services have declined in quality, electricity blackouts have increased, and new investments in infrastructure have largely been halted.
Because of the parliament’s inability to function, Sadr’s supporters have argued that the best solution is simply to repeat the previous year’s election, hoping that the movement could successfully form a government in a new parliament.
Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.