Thousands of al-Sadr supporters gather for mass prayer in Baghdad | News

Worshipers gather in a large square inside Baghdad’s Green District, home to government and diplomatic buildings.

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis took part in a mass vigil in Baghdad called by influential Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr, a highly symbolic move amid an unprecedented political crisis. available in Iraq.

In a show of strength, al-Sadr called on his followers to pray on Friday inside Baghdad’s Green Zone – a heavily fortified area in the center of the capital where buildings are located. Iraqi government, foreign embassies and parliament, which his supporters seized. Since Saturday.

Al-Sadr supporters have gathered in a large square inside the normally secure Green Zone, where they stand in the scorching heat of summer as temperatures hit 48 degrees Celsius (118 degrees Fahrenheit) .

The call to mass prayer followed ask for an early election, which Iraq’s rival political bloc – the Pro-Iran Coordination Framework – says is open to conditions despite the last national polls taking place only about 10 months ago.

Followers of Muqtada al-Sadr attend Friday outdoor prayers at the Great Festival Square in the Green Zone, in Baghdad, Iraq on Friday, August 5, 2022 [Anmar Khalil/AP]
Followers of Muqtada al-Sadr attend Friday outdoor prayers at the Grand Festival Square in the Green Zone in Baghdad on Friday, August 5, 2022 [Anmar Khalil/AP]

Iraq’s political factions have been unable to form a government, even as the country grapples with rampant corruption, crumbling infrastructure and unemployment.

Al-Sadr’s followers stormed the parliament building in Baghdad last Saturday on his orders to stop the Framework for Coordination of Voting in a new government.

A similar call to prayer and pressure tactics from al-Sadr in mid-July drew hundreds of thousands of Muslims to Sadr City, a district in Baghdad named after their murdered father. your.

Reporting from Baghdad, Al Jazeera’s Mahmoud Abdelwahed said that while some protesters at the parliament building were returning to their home cities, others had joined.

“The [Friday sermon] The preacher confirmed that these protesters will remain on the bench until their demands are met. They want to get rid of all corrupt politicians,” Abdelwahed said.

“It seems that the protesters are planning to sit around for a long time until they receive various instructions from their leadership,” he added.

Risk of escalation

Months of post-election negotiations between al-Sadr’s bloc – the largest bloc in parliament – and other factions have failed to lead to an agreement on a new government, prime minister and president.

Although al-Sadr’s block has emerged from the polls in October as the largest parliamentary bloc, there is still little to gain from a majority.

In June, 73 of his politicians quit in an attempt to break the logjam. That led to the rival Coordination Framework becoming the largest block in the legislature.

The recent nomination of former cabinet minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani by the Coordination Framework as prime minister angered the Sadists and prompted them to continue their occupation of the parliament building.

With armed groups affiliated with various political factions in Iraq, the United Nations has warned of the risk of escalating political tensions.

On Wednesday, al-Sadr called for the dissolution of parliament and the organization of new polls.

His opponents in the Coordination Framework on Thursday night said they were conditionally open to that idea, signaling a possible de-escalation.

In a brief statement, the Coordinating Framework said it “affirms its support for any constitutional way to resolve political crises and realize the interests of the people, including including early elections”.

But “national consensus on the question and providing a safe environment” is a prerequisite for such polls, the group said.

Above all, the Framework emphasizes the importance of “not disrupting the operation” of constitutional institutions – a clear reference to the current occupation of parliament by Sadists.

The coordination framework includes politicians from the party of former Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, al-Sadr’s longtime enemy, and Hashd al-Shaabi, a pro-Iranian paramilitary network now integrated into the force. security quantity.

Parliament can only be dissolved by a majority vote, according to the constitution. Such a vote could take place at the request of a third of lawmakers, or by the prime minister with the consent of the president.

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