Clergy accuses Iranian ally of meddling in Iraq

BAGHDAD (AP) — The Iraqi parliament is scheduled to meet Thursday to vote on replacements for 73 lawmakers who resigned earlier this month. A mass strike by followers of Iraq’s most influential Shiite politician has plunged Iraq into further uncertainty, deepening a months-long political crisis over government formation.

However, it is unclear whether the special meeting of 50 lawmakers called for during the recess will pass. The electoral assembly requires a simple majority of the 329-member legislature, while cleric and politician Moqtada al-Sadr urged the parliamentary bloc not to succumb to “pressure” from Iran-backed factions.

Sadr, a maverick politician with a large following, emerged as the biggest winner in October’s general election, but failed to form a coalition that could form a majority government.

He has been locked in a power struggle with Iran-backed internal Shiite rivals, preventing the formation of a new government.

Two weeks ago, he ordered lawmakers from the parliamentary bloc to resign in a bid to break an eight-month stalemate. The unprecedented move has thrown Iraq’s political landscape into chaos.

Under Iraqi law, if any seats in parliament become vacant, the candidate with the second-highest number of votes in their constituency will replace them. In this case, it would bring Sadr’s opponents from the so-called coordination framework, a coalition led by the Iran-backed Shiite party and its allies, with a majority. This would allow pro-Iran factions to decide the composition of the next government.

While parliament is in recess, most lawmakers from the Framework coalition have called for a special session on Thursday to vote on new lawmakers.

On Wednesday, Sadr accused Iranian proxies of meddling in politics. He also accused them of applying pressure against newly elected political independents and allies of his Sadrist bloc.

“I call on the bloc to stand up bravely to reform and save the country, and not to succumb to sectarian pressure, as they are bubbles that will disappear,” he said in a statement.

Munaf Mousavi, a political analyst and director of the Baghdad Center for Strategic Studies, said Sadr’s statement against Iranian proxies also appealed to his former ally Masood Barzani of the Kurdistan Democratic Party and parliament speaker Mohammad Halbusi. sent a message. – Avoiding parliamentary meetings so that the Coordination Framework and its allies cannot control the House of Representatives.

Iraq’s elections were held months earlier than expected in response to massive protests that erupted in late 2019, with tens of thousands of people rallying against endemic corruption, poor services and unemployment.

The political stalemate has led to fears of renewed protests and street clashes between Sadr’s supporters and their Shiite opponents.

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