Tensions in Iraq as a cleric accuses Iran’s allies of meddling

Tensions in Iraq as a cleric accuses Iran’s allies of meddling

BAGHDAD (AP) – Iraq’s parliament is set to meet on Thursday to vote on replacing 73 lawmakers who resigned earlier this month. The collective departure of supporters of Iraq’s most prominent Shiite politician has plunged Iraq into further uncertainty, deepening a months-long political crisis over the formation of a government.

It was not clear whether the special sitting requested by 50 Members during a break would take place. A simple majority of 329 members of the legislature is needed for an election session, and al-Sadr urged parliamentary blocs not to succumb to “pressure” from Iranian-backed factions.

Al-Sadr, a naughty politician with a large following, emerged as the biggest winner in the October general election, but failed to combine a coalition that could form a majority government.

He has been embroiled in a power struggle with Iranian-backed Shi’ite insurgents, preventing the formation of a new government.

Two weeks ago, he ordered lawmakers from his parliamentary bloc to resign in a bid to break the eight-month stalemate. The unprecedented move has upset the political landscape in Iraq.

Under Iraqi law, if there is a vacancy in parliament, the candidate with the second highest number of votes in his constituency will be replaced. In that case, it would make al-Sadr’s opponents from the so-called Coordination Framework, a coalition led by Iran-backed Shiite parties and their allies, a majority. This would allow pro-Iranian factions to determine the composition of the next government.

Although Parliament is on a break, lawmakers, mostly from the Framework Alliance, called for an emergency meeting on Thursday to vote on the new lawmakers.

On Wednesday, al-Sadr accused Iranian proxies of political interference. He also accused them of putting pressure on newly elected politicians, independents and allies of his Sadrist bloc.

He called on the deputies not to succumb to pressure.

“I urge the blocs to stand up bravely for the sake of reform and to save the nation and not succumb to sectarian pressure, as they are bubbles that will disappear,” he said in a statement.

Munaf Al-Musawi, a political analyst and director of the Baghdad Center for Strategic Studies, said al-Sadr’s statement against Iran’s proxies also sent a message to his former allies – Massoud Barzani of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Speaker of Parliament. Mohammed Al-Halbusi – to avoid holding a sitting of parliament.

He said that if a meeting were held, the Coordinating Framework and its allies would control parliament and Sadr’s allies would pay the price.

Elections in Iraq were held several months earlier than expected in response to the mass demonstrations that erupted in late 2019 and saw tens of thousands demonstrate against endemic corruption, poor services and unemployment.

The political stalemate has led to concerns about renewed protests and street clashes between al-Sadr supporters and their Shiite opponents.

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