Iraq’s Shia leader calls for early election amid unrest, protests

Al-Sistani says quickest way out of crisis is to go back to people through fresh polls.

Al-Sistani said he hopes the formation of a new Iraqi government is not delayed for long amid continuing crisis [AP]

Iraq‘s top Shia leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has said an early election resulting in a new government was the only way out of the current unrest gripping the country.

More than 450 people, mostly unarmed demonstrators but also some members of the security forces, have been killed since a wave of popular anti-government unrest began on October 1.

“The fastest and most peaceful way out of the current crisis, and avoiding the unknown or chaos or civil strife, is to go back to the people by holding an early election after legislating a fair electoral law,” al-Sistani said in a speech read out by a representative at a Friday sermon in the Shia holy city of Karbala.

“We hope that the formation of a new government is not delayed for long.”

On Wednesday, Iraq’s Parliament failed to pass a new electoral law, a key demand of protesters, which would make elections fairer after allegations of fraud in recent years.

Deadlock in Parliament also held up the selection of an interim prime minister, causing MPs, on Thursday, to miss the constitutional deadline to name a replacement for Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, who resigned last month but has remained in office in a caretaker capacity. 

Iraq’s capital, Baghdad, and its Shia-majority south have been gripped by more than two months of rallies against corruption, poor public services and unemployment.

Demonstrators also want a complete overhaul of the political system installed after the 2003 US invasion of the country, where power is apportioned among religious and ethnic groups.

Protesters have complained of being monitored, threatened and harassed in an intimidation campaign they say is aimed at blunting their movement.

Rights organisations have warned of an increase in forced disappearances and arbitrary detentions in the country.

Source: News Agencies