Sadrists vacate Iraqi Parliament in new show of force

Baghdad, Aug 5 (EFE).- Followers of Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada Al Sadr on Friday ended their occupation of the country’s parliament building, which they had held for six days, and camped in its surroundings with a new show of force to gather thousands of people for Friday prayers outside the building.

Baghdad Police Major Tahsin Al Murshidi told Efe that all of the Sadrists had left the parliament headquarters, located in the fortified Green Zone in the center of the capital, allowing the main entrance of the building to be sealed.

The protesters, who seized the hemicycle ahead of an imminent vote to elect a new president of the country by a pro-Iranian coalition that rivals Al-Sadr, are still camped out in tents in front of the parliament, Al Murshidi added.

One of the cleric’s collaborators and Shiite political leader, Amir al Rikabi, confirmed this to Efe, adding that the voluntary eviction, which had been ordered by Al Sadr himself, took place early in the afternoon and that the demonstrators will continue to be stationed around the Hemicycle until their demands are met.

Their demands, outlined by the leader of the movement in a televised speech on Tuesday, consist of the dissolution of the parliament that emerged from last October’s elections, new elections and a political, constitutional and electoral reform.

The transfer of the Sadrists’ protest from inside to outside the Parliament came after tens of thousands had gathered at noon in a nearby square for Friday prayers.

It was led by one of the leaders of the Sadrist movement, Muhammad al-Musawi, who in his sermon criticized the past government’s corruption, which he linked to the formation of consensus executives, with quotas of power for all parties, a system that Al Sadr tried to break in the last session of parliament.

After his Sadrist Bloc won the October elections with only 73 of the 329 seats in Parliament, he tried to establish alliances to form a majority government, but was unable to do so due to rival parties demanding a consensus executive. They boycotted the vote to elect the president, a step prior to the formation of the Cabinet of Ministers.

After the prayer, those gathered demonstrated with chants of “Yes to reform” and “No to corruption”.

Meanwhile, the Speaker of Parliament, Muhammad al-Halbousi, re-elected thanks to the votes of the armed alliance around the Sadrist Bloc, expressed on his Twitter account his support for Al Sadr’s request to hold early elections “to start a new democratic process under the roof of the constitution”.

On Thursday night, the Coordination Framework, a coalition of pro-Iranian parties with a majority in parliament after the resignation of the deputies of the rival Sadrist Bloc at the beginning of June, had also expressed its support for an early election but on the condition that there is a “national consensus”. EFE


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