Supporters of Iraqi populist leader Muqtada al-Sadr set up tents and prepared for an indefinite sit-in in the Iraqi parliament on Sunday, which could prolong the political stalemate or plunge the country into new violence.
Thousands of supporters of the Shiite Muslim cleric broke into the fortified Green Zone in Baghdad on Saturday, taking over the empty parliament building for the second time in a week as his Shiite rivals, most of whom are close to Iran, try to form a government.
We stay until our demands are met. And we have a lot of demands,” a member of Sadr’s political team told Reuters on the condition of anonymity because he is not allowed to make statements to the media.
Al-Sadr’s socio-political movement demands the dissolution of parliament and the holding of new elections, as well as the replacement of federal judges, a spokesman for al-Sadr said.
The Sadrist movement came first in the October elections as the largest party in parliament, accounting for about a quarter of its 329 members.
Iran’s supporters suffered heavy losses in the elections, with the exception of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Sadr’s main rival.
However, Sadr failed to form a government free of these parties due to sufficient opposition in parliament and federal court rulings that prevented him from choosing a president and prime minister.
He withdrew his legislators from parliament in protest and has since used masses of his impoverished Shiite followers to agitate through street protests.
The stalemate marks the biggest crisis in Iraq in recent years. In 2017, Iraqi forces, along with the US-led coalition and Iranian military support, defeated the Islamic State, an extremist Sunni Muslim group that had taken over more than a third of Iraq’s territory.
Two years later, Iraqis, suffering from a shortage of jobs and services, took to the streets demanding an end to corruption, new elections, and the removal of all parties, especially the powerful Shia factions that had ruled the country since the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003. .
Government forces and Shiite militias shot hundreds of demonstrators.
Sadr continues to capitalize on popular opposition to his Iranian-backed rivals, saying they are corrupt and serve Tehran’s interests, not Baghdad’s.
However, the fickle cleric retains firm hold over much of the state, and his Sadrist movement has long ruled over some of the most corrupt and inefficient government departments.
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