Weeks after supporters of an influential cleric stormed parliament, Iraq’s political crisis shows no sign of abating, despite mounting public anger over a crippling standoff that has further weakened the country’s interim government and its ability to provide essential services.
Iraq’s two rival Shia political camps remain locked in a zero-sum game, and the only voice who may be able to end the rift, the revered Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has been conspicuously silent.
For now, hundreds of supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr, an arsonist by Shia clerics, are still camped outside the parliament building in Baghdad, ready to escalate if their demands are not met. Al-Sadr has called for early elections, the dissolution of parliament, and constitutional changes.
He has given the judiciary a week to dissolve the legislature. His Shiite rivals on the Iran-backed side have their own terms. They accused him of violating the constitution, prompting counter-protests that stoked fears of bloodshed.
On Sunday, Iraq’s top judicial body said it had no power to dissolve the country’s parliament. The Supreme Judicial Council said in a statement after a meeting that the country’s political groups should not involve the judiciary in their “rivalries and political competition” in the old political crisis, the longest since 2003 in the US.
The invasion restored political order the caretaker’s cabinet, unable to pass laws or enact a budget, is weakening by the day while the public lashes out at poor services, including blackouts during the scorching summer heat. When al-Sadr ordered thousands of his followers to storm Baghdad’s heavily fortified government district on July 30, he paralyzed state institutions and prevented his political rivals from forming a government.
Al-Sadr may have been heartened by the silence of 92-year-old al-Sistani, a revered spiritual figure whose word has enormous influence on leaders and ordinary Iraqis.
Three officials at al-Sistani’s seminary in the holy city of Najaf said he did not use his influence because he did not want to appear to take sides in the worst internal Shia crisis since 2003.
They spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the media. “The Marjaiya is watching the situation with concern,” said one of the officials, referring to the ayatollah. He said that al-Sistani “will not intervene at this time Weather.
Your contribution may be perceived as an advantage for one party over another. Al-Sistani rarely intervened in political affairs, but when he did, he changed the course of Iraqi politics.In 2019, his sermon led to the resignation of then Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi amid massive anti-government protests, the largest in Iraq’s modern history. Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s government was sworn in with the aim of holding early elections, which were held. in October.
The ayatollah has grown weary of the current political dynamics in Iraq, the Najaf official said. He has not resumed his regular Friday sermons, which have been suspended during the pandemic. His doors remain closed to Iraq’s political elites, a sign that he disapproves of them.
The seminary in Najaf is also shared by al-Sadr. Some fear his boldness is widening the divide between Shia, while others agree with his anti-corruption and reformist rhetoric. Dozens of seminary students recently joined the protests.
Al-Sistani has red lines that would force him to intervene if crossed, officials said. This includes bloodshed and attempts to undermine Iraq’s democratic foundations.” Muqtada is aware of these red lines and will not cross them,” an official said. Even if Shia rivals agree to hold elections, fundamental disagreements over electoral rules remain. There is no precedent to guide decision-makers.
Al-Sadr has indicated he will intensify the protests if the judiciary does not dissolve parliament by the end of the week. The judiciary reiterated on Sunday that it had no power to dissolve the legislature. His rivals in the Coordination Framework Alliance, made up largely of Iran-backed Shia parties, say al-Sadr’s pressure on the judiciary is unconstitutional.
They are not against snap elections as long as there is a national consensus on how the vote will end. carried out. Al-Sadr wants to apply the same rules as in October’s elections when Iraq was divided into 83 constituencies. 73, while Iran-backed parties saw a drop from 48 to 16. The framework wants the law to be changed.
However, the parliament building is closed and hundreds of al-Sadr supporters camped outside, preventing MPs from entering. Ordinary Iraqis are increasingly frustrated that the interim government is struggling to provide basic services like electricity and water.
The political crisis comes at a certain point in time. Period of rising unemployment, particularly among young Iraqis. The country has suffered back-to-back droughts, severely damaging agriculture and the fishing industry and further reducing job prospects.
Protests in southern Iraq turned violent last week after stone-throwing protesters clashed with security forces outside camps in Missan and Dhi Qar provinces collided.
More than a dozen demonstrators were arrested and more than a dozen members of the security forces were injured. In Missan, Mustafa Hashem protested against the severe water shortages that have affected livelihoods in Iraq’s swamplands.
He said the security forces were involved in a “brutal and unjustified crackdown” on peaceful protesters. More protests took place in the southern province of Basra after three straight days of power outages during the summer heat.
This year, many protesters called on al-Sadr to stand up for their rights. Salt levels in Basra this summer are about as high as they were four years ago when tens of thousands of people were hospitalized over poor water quality, environmentalist Shukri al-Hassan said.
The 2018 health crisis sparked violent protests that served as a precursor to massive anti-government demonstrations the following year. Unable to pass a budget law, the caretaker government has resorted to stopgap measures to fund urgent spending such as food and electricity payments to the neighboring countries. Crucial investments, including in water infrastructure, have now stalled.