BAGHDAD: Shiite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr, whose political bloc won Iraq’s election on May 12, on Thursday called on all politicians to delay efforts to form a new government until the demands of protesters seeking better services in the south of the country are met.
“The winning political parties in the election have to suspend all political dialogues for forming coalitions until they meet protesters’ rightful demands,” he posted on Twitter. It was his first public comment on the unrest sweeping the south.
However, analysts and even Sadr’s Shiite partners said that suspending the talks is “impractical” and will not help to address the demands of protesters.
“We must expedite the formation of a service government that operates according to clear programs and time limits if we want to meet the demands of the demonstrators,” said a prominent Shiite leader, and one of Sadr’s allies, who asked to remain anonymous.
“There are constitutional deadlines that we must abide by. Parliament must meet immediately after the ratification of the election results to choose the president and complete the steps to form a government.
“It is illogical to wait until the demands of protesters are met because most of these demands need months or years to turn into reality.”
Sadr’s call is seen by many analysts and politicians as an attempt to capitalize on the wave of protests, especially as protesters in Basra and several other provinces already rejected offers made by him to organize mass demonstrations led by his followers.
“There is no contradiction between meeting the demands of the demonstrators and continuing negotiations to form a government,” said Ahmed Jallil, an Iraqi analyst.
“Sadr just feels that he is not controlling the scene this time, after his previous offers were rejected, and his rivals have come close to forming a coalition away from him. So the best way to regain control is by riding the wave of the demonstrations.”
Mass protests have been sweeping the southern provinces since July 8 as anger grows over a serious lack of basic services, such as electricity and drinking water, and the high rates of unemployment and poverty.
The demonstrations turned violent when protesters stormed Najaf airport and the headquarters of several oil companies in the oil-hub city of Basra, and set fires in many governmental and partisan buildings.
At least 12 protesters were killed and hundreds were wounded, most of them policemen, according to the Iraqi Commission of Human Rights.
The demonstrations are the latest results of the unrest that has plagued the country since the announcement in May of the preliminary results of the parliamentary national elections.
Most Iraqi political leaders have backed the protesters in their “legal” demands.