The casket containing the body of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim – one of Iraq’s most influential power brokers – has arrived in Baghdad amid tight security.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki and President Jalal Talabani were there to receive the revered Shi’ite leader of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council. His death, from lung cancer, has triggered a flurry of political manouevering as clerics ponder who to appoint as his succesor. Al-Hakim’s death has fuelled a mood of instability at a time when public confidence in the government is at a low ebb. Iraqi parliamentarian and member of the ISCI, Hameed al-Maala said: “He was a major and pivotal figure in Iraq’s overall political front and for sure the absence of such a figure during such a critical period will leave a big gap and have a huge negative impact on the political process. However since the political process is a moral duty for the different political forces, I believe his absence will not be a great impediment.” As al-Hakim’s funeral takes place in the southern holy city of Najaf, it remains to be seen how the powerful religious ISCI faction will align itself, under a new leader, ahead of elections due to take place in January.