JEDDAH: Iraq on Monday moved closer to a snap parliamentary election after crisis talks in Baghdad.
Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi chaired a meeting with President Barham Salih, UN representative Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert and representatives from the Iran-backed Coordination Framework political bloc.
They “agreed to form a technical committee comprising the various political forces ... to bridge differences with the aim of reaching early elections,” Al-Kadhimi’s office said after the talks.
Representatives of the influential Shiite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr failed to attend the meeting, but the dissolution of parliament and an immediate election are key demands of Al-Sadr and his bloc.
Al-Sadr and his Iran-backed political rivals have been at odds since parliamentary elections in October last year. Al-Sadr won the largest share of seats but failed to form a majority government. Since then Iraq has been mired in political deadlock without a new government, president or prime minister.
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Al-Sadr’s rivals agree in principle to holding early polls but disagree on the mechanism. The cleric is demanding that the judiciary dissolve the legislature but the Coordination Framework insist parliament should convene to do this. The rival camps are also at odds over the electoral law that would govern the polls, which the Coordination Framework wants amended.
Monday’s talks came a week after Al-Sadr’s supporters stormed government headquarters in the capital’s fortified Green Zone and clashed with fighters from the Iran-backed Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi militia. More than 30 Sadrists were killed and hundreds injured in nearly 24 hours of violence that ended when the cleric called on his supporters to pull out.
However, Al-Sadr supporters in the central city of Najaf on Monday pledged allegiance to the cleric and said the fight was far from over. “Blood was spilt, but there is plenty more where that came from,” said Al-Sadr loyalist Moussa Abbas, 21. “For every martyr we lose, 10 will come in his place. The same way they sacrificed themselves for us, we will stand up for them.”
Another Sadrist, Sadeq Jaber, said: “We obey the orders of our leader and commander — whatever he wants, we are ready. All of us, with our children, houses and families, we are all under his command. There will continue to be martyrs as long as this ruling class is in power.”
Fadel Al-Bdeiri, a cleric in Najaf who supports Al-Sadr, said: “The people will either side with the Sadrist movement and wage this battle and secure their demands, or they side with the Framework and remain mired in the status quo. There can’t be a reconciliation between them.”