Muqtada al-Sadr in Iraq orders his supporters to continue the sit-in inside the national parliament and calls for new elections.
Iraqi populist Islamist scholar Muqtada al-Sadr urged his supporters to continue their sit-in inside the national parliament in Baghdad until his demands are met, which include dissolving parliament and holding early elections.
The remarks, delivered by the Shiite leader in a televised address from Najaf on Wednesday, may extend the political stalemate that has kept Iraq without an elected government for nearly 10 months.
Thousands of Sadr’s followers stormed Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone, which houses government buildings and foreign missions, last weekend and took over the empty parliament building and staged a continuous sit-in.
Sadr’s supporters set up camp with tents and food stalls surrounding the parliament.
These moves came in response to attempts by his Shiite opponents, many of whom are close to Iran – especially the Iran-backed coordination framework – to form a government with prime minister candidates whom al-Sadr does not approve of.
Sadr won the most seats in parliament in the October elections but failed to form a government that excludes his Iranian-backed rivals.
He withdrew his deputies from Parliament and instead exerted pressure through protests and parliamentary sit-ins, benefiting from his popular base of millions of working-class Iraqi Shiites.
Al-Sadr reiterated during his speech that he was ready to “martyrize” for his cause.
“Dissolve parliament and hold early elections,” Sadr said.
You don’t want to talk
Al-Sadr, who led an anti-US militia and has millions of loyal followers, indicated in his speech that he had “no interest” in negotiating with his opponents.
“Don’t believe the rumors that I don’t want dialogue,” Al-Sadr said.
“But we have already tried and experienced dialogue with them,” he added. “He brought nothing to us or the nation – only ruin and corruption.”
Al-Sadr appeared eager to show that he was “not seeking to make any personal gain from this operation,” said Al-Jazeera’s Dorsa Jabari in Baghdad.
“He was adamant that corruption is of course present at all the different levels of government, and he said one way we can get rid of it is to have another round of elections to bring in a large number of people,” she said.
The stalemate between Sadr and his opponents left Iraq without a government for a record period in the post-Saddam Hussein era.
The outgoing Prime Minister, Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, had called for a “national dialogue” in an effort to bring all parties together for dialogue, and on Wednesday spoke with President Barham Salih.
The two men stressed the importance of “ensuring security and stability” in the country, according to the official Iraqi News Agency.
But Jabbari said it was now clear that Sadr and his representatives would not participate in “any form of national dialogue at this stage.”
Earlier on Wednesday, the United Nations mission in Iraq called on leaders to put their country first and end the long-running power struggle.
The United Nations mission warned that “the meaningful dialogue between all Iraqi parties is now more urgent than ever, as recent events have shown the danger of a rapid escalation in this tense political climate.”
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