IRAQ’S SHIITE CLERIC SLAMS NEW PROVINCIAL ELECTIONS LAW AS “UNFAIR”

An Iraqi influential Shiite cleric criticized Friday the new provincial elections law as "unfair," saying it would set back the anti-corruption reforms.

The comments were made by Moqtada al-Sadr, as tens of thousands of his followers rallied in the afternoon at Tahrir Square in downtown Baghdad, after an earlier call by Sadr to protest the recent parliamentary approval of a draft for the provincial elections slated for 2018.

"Approving this unfair law and bringing back the same persons to the electoral commission, only means that they are reserving their seats again," Sadr said in a televised address to the demonstrators.

"Approving the provincial law as currently drafted by the dominated parties represents death to the ambitions of the people in the change and reform," he added.

In his speech, Sadr also presented a six-point roadmap, including integrating the predominantly-Shiite paramilitary Hashd Shaabi units in the official Iraqi security forces and disarming all other paramilitary units in order to restrict the possession of weapons by the government, in addition to accelerating the reconstruction of the destroyed cities and bringing the displaced people back to their homes.

He also called for giving the United Nations a supervisory role in the work of the Independent High Elections Commission, if the commission members will not be replaced.

The rally was held under tight security, with downtown Baghdad cordoned off and many checkpoints set up on the roads leading to the rally site.

Demonstrators were waving with hundreds of Iraqi flags, raising banners reading "No, No, to corruption," and chanting slogans against corruption of some politicians.

On Thursday, Sadr urged the Iraqi people to hold massive demonstrations across the country on Friday against widespread corruption and attempts by some political parties to reproduce corruption in the 2018 provincial elections.

"I wish the people are aware of what corrupt politicians are engaged with a dirty scheme to restore corruption which will not only control the people's food, but also their necks and blood," Sadr said in a statement released by his office.

He said the politicians, who were seen as corrupted by many Iraqis, approved an election law for the provincial elections that would take into account the interests of the same old large parliamentary blocs.

On Tuesday, the Iraqi parliament passed 21 articles of the draft for the provincial elections slated for 2018, including an article stating Sainte-Lague method in counting the votes for the provincial councils' seats.

Sadr and many political parties see the counting method as a way to serve the interests of the large political parties.

Sadr's followers held many massive rallies in the past few years. In one of the rallies, the protestors stormed the parliament building.

The popular protests have forced Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to make some reforms, aimed at confronting the country's economic crisis due to the sharp decrease in oil prices in global markets when the security forces were in full combat with Islamic State terrorist group in the country.

However, Abadi's reforms, which first gained popular support, have gradually lost the faith of the demonstrators who demand Abadi be more aggressive against the political parties benefiting from corruption and reverse the reforms to their own good.

Source: NAM News Network