Following his opponents’ conditional support for his call for early elections, Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr mobilized tens of thousands for mass prayers in Baghdad’s Green Zone on Friday.
The war-torn nation’s longtime political and religious movement, Sadr, has been locked in a standoff with a rival alliance supported by Iran for months.
Worshippers gathered in a large square located within the traditionally protected Green Zone, which is home to diplomatic and government facilities, including the parliament that his supporters have been occupying since last Saturday.
Despite the fact that the most recent national elections only took place approximately 10 months ago, Sadr’s mass prayer appeal comes in response to his call for early elections, which the rival group claims it is conditionally open to.
Even as the nation struggles with widespread corruption, deteriorating infrastructure, and unemployment, the political forces have been unable to create a government.
38-year-old Sheikh Ali al-Atabi joined the crowd to back Sadr. When he “wants to use the people for whatever,” calling people to Friday prayers is “part of his repertory,” Atabi said.
In mid-July, Sadr summoned Muslims to pray in Sadr City, a neighborhood in Baghdad named after his murdered father, using a similar pressure strategy.
Qassem Abu Mustafa, 40, who was also en route to the midday prayers, described the crowd as “a thorn” jabbing “the adversary to demand legislative elections and reforms.”
The prayer will be offered by a million men, the government servant said.
The faithful used umbrellas to shield themselves from the 108-degree heat in Baghdad, which was largely experienced by men but even by a few women.
Some shouted, “Yes, yes Sayyed,” in allusion to Sadr’s official title, while waving Iraqi flags and carrying photos of him.
Abu Mustafa declared, “Whatever Mr. Sadr’s viewpoint, we are with him.
Months of post-election negotiations between Sadr’s group, the majority party in parliament, and other factions failed to produce a new government, prime minister, or president that was acceptable to all parties.
In the polls conducted in October, Sadr’s bloc was found to be the largest in parliament, although it was still far from a majority.
In an effort to end the impasse, 73 of his legislators resigned in June. As a result, the pro-Iran Coordination Framework, a rival Shiite group, grew to be the largest in the assembly.
The Sadrists became enraged and took over parliament after Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, a former cabinet minister, was named prime minister by the Coordination Framework.
The United Nations has issued a warning about the possibility of political tensions increasing due to armed organizations connected to the various political factions in Iraq.
Sadr demanded new elections and the dissolving of parliament on Wednesday. On Thursday night, his opponents in the Coordination Framework acknowledged they were “conditionally open” to the notion, denoting a potential deescalation.
The Coordination Framework issued a brief statement in which it “affirms its support to any constitutional approach to resolve political difficulties and realize the interests of the people, including early elections.”
But it added that necessary conditions for such polls included “a national consensus on the topic and providing a safe atmosphere.”
Above important, the Framework emphasized the significance of “not interrupting the operation” of constitutional institutions — a blatant allusion to Sadr’s supporters’ occupation of the parliament.
The constitution states that a majority vote is required to dissolve Parliament. A third of legislators may request such a vote, or the prime minister may do so with the president’s consent.