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Iraqi Sadr calls for new polls as political crisis escalates

#Iraqi #Sadr #calls #polls #political #crisis #escalates

Powerful Shiite leader Moqtada Sadr, whose bloc won the most seats in Iraq’s elections last year, called on Wednesday for the dissolution of parliament and the calling of new elections.

Almost 10 months after the last elections, the country still has no government and no new prime minister or president after repeated infighting between factions over forming a coalition.

In the recent political unrest hitting the oil-rich but war-torn country, Sadr called for a “revolutionary and peaceful process, then early democratic elections after a dissolution of parliament.”

“I am sure that the majority of the population is angry with the ruling class as a whole, including some (politicians) belonging to my movement,” Sadr said.

His televised speech came as his supporters occupied parliament for the fifth straight day in protest at a rival Shia faction’s nomination for prime minister, the Iran-backed coordination framework.

Supporters of this rival faction have in recent days accused Sadr of attempting to launch a coup.

“From now on, there will be no more old-guard politicians of any affiliation,” Sadr added.

Sadr, who once led an anti-US militia and has millions of devoted supporters, noted that he also has “no interest” in negotiations with his rivals.

– “Danger of escalation” –

Around Parliament, the cleric’s supporters have set up a camp with tents and food stalls, and Sadr on Wednesday urged them to move on.

“The revolutionaries and protesters participating in the sit-in must remain and continue their camp until the demands are implemented,” he said.

The Sadrist camp was outraged that the Coordinating Framework faction last week appointed former Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani as prime minister.

The Coordinating Framework is a grouping that includes former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a longtime enemy of Sadr, and Hashed al-Shaabi, a former paramilitary network now integrated with the security forces.

Outgoing Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi has called for a “national dialogue” to bring all sides together to talk, and on Wednesday he spoke to President Barham Saleh.

According to the Iraqi news agency, both men stressed the importance of “guaranteeing security and stability” in the country.

Thousands of supporters of the coordination framework have held counter-protests in Baghdad against the occupation of parliament.

“Don’t believe the rumors that I don’t want dialogue,” Sadr said on Wednesday.

“But we have already tried and experienced dialogue with them,” he added. “It has brought us and the nation nothing – only ruin and corruption.”

Earlier Wednesday, the United Nations mission in Iraq urged leaders to put their country first and end the long-running power struggle.

“A meaningful dialogue between all Iraqi parties is now more urgent than ever, as recent events have demonstrated the rapid risk of escalation in this tense political climate,” the UN mission warned.

“We call on all actors to engage immediately, to engage actively and to agree on solutions,” she added, warning that “leaders must put (the) national interests first.”

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#Iraqi #Sadr #calls #polls #political #crisis #escalates

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