Abadi, Maliki To Head Separate Lists In Upcoming Iraqi Elections

Current and former Prime Ministers of Iraq to face off in May parliamentary elections

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi will attempt to form a cross-sectarian "victory alliance" as he seeks re-election.

Abadi's main challenger is expected to be Nouri al-Maliki, who served as prime minister for eight years before stepping aside in 2014 for Abadi.

In the previous parliamentary election of 2014, "State of Law" took most of the votes.

The alliance would aim to unify the country after a recent victory over "Islamic State" (IS) militants.

In December, Abadi declared victory in the three-year war by Iraqi forces to expel the jihadists from vast swathes of territory they had seized north and west of Baghdad - almost one third of the country. He is credited for hastily rebuilding the Iraqi army and defeating the group in its major Iraqi stronghold of Mosul in July 2017, with assistance from the United States.

He said in a statement that the "victory coalition will preserve the sacrifices of martyrs and wounded heroes who battled for Iraq and fight corruption in all forms through relying on the national talent".

He was widely criticised by Iraqi politicians for the army's collapse when ISIL swept through a third of the country in the summer of 2014.

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Abadi belongs to the Dawa party, a Shi'ite group with close ties to Iran.

"[The fact that] Maliki and Abadi may go their separate ways simply confirms the split which exists between "London" Dawa and "Tehran" Dawa; that is, the different groupings within Dawa based on where party members spent their decades of exile during Saddam Hussein's reign", Mr Rubin said.

Maliki, who now serves as one of three vice presidents, was widely accused of pursuing sectarian policies that alienated the country's Sunni minority. The speaker of parliament is drawn from Sunni Arab MPs.

Al-Sadr, one of the most influential religious and popular figures in Iraq, issued a statement issued on Sunday describing the alliance as "an abhorrent political agreement".

The UN mission to Iraq said while the election commission faces "significant challenges" it would be able to "deliver a timely, fair and transparent national election".

Several Hashed commanders have already shed their military fatigues for civilian clothes to join the "Victory Alliance" for the May 12 parliamentary election.

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