Iraq’s official electoral commission on Sunday rejected proposals to allow the Hashd al-Shaabi, an umbrella group of pro-government Shia militias, to register itself as a political party in advance of elections slated for next year.
The decision came one day after prominent Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr declared that the country’s next government would be a "government of militias" if the Hashd al-Shaabi were allowed to field candidates in provincial council and parliamentary polls slated for 2017 and 2018 respectively.
In a Sunday statement, the commission said it had based its decision on the fact that the Hashd al-Shaabi constituted a "military organization with links to the [Iraqi] security agencies".
Iraq’s Political Parties Law, it went on to explain, which was ratified by parliament last year, prohibited the registration of "military or paramilitary organizations" as political parties.
According to Hashd al-Shaabi spokesman Karim al-Nouri, the militia group’s primary responsibility at present was to pursue the fight against the Daesh terrorist organization, which continues to hold large swathes of territory in war-torn Iraq.
"Our presence in the battlefield today is to confront Daesh," al-Nouri told Anadolu Agency on Sunday.
"We didn’t want to arm ourselves, but the country’s dire security situation forced us to go from a civilian organization to a military one," he said.
He added: "Several Hashd al-Shaabi leaders, including Hadi al-Amiri [a former Iraqi transport minister and current commander of the Hashd-affiliated Al-Badr Organization] is basically a politician, not a military figure."
"Our main concern now is pursuing the fight against Daesh," al-Nouri asserted.
Iraq has suffered a devastating security vacuum since mid-2014, when Daesh captured the northern city of Mosul along with vast swathes of territory in the country’s northern and western regions.
In recent months, the Iraqi army -- backed by U.S.-led airstrikes and its allies on the ground, including the Hashd al-Shaabi -- has since managed to retake much of the territory lost earlier to Daesh.
Nevertheless, the terrorist group remains in firm control of several parts of the country, including Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city.