Sadr withdraws from upcoming Iraq elections, ends backing for government

Sadr withdraws from upcoming Iraq elections, ends backing for government
Powerful Iraqi Shia political figurehead and cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said he was withdrawing from the elections, alleging widespread corruption.
3 min read
Muqtada Al-Sadr's comments break with past views expressed by the Sadrist Movement [Getty]

Powerful Iraqi Shia political figurehead and cleric Muqtada al-Sadr announced on Thursday that he will not be participating in the country's 10 October elections.

Sadr also revealed that he will no longer be backing Iraq's present government or its coming one, The New Arab's Arabic-language sister service, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, reported.

This is a departure from past views expressed by the electoral force he heads, the Sadrist Movement, which, together with its Alliance Towards Reforms partners, won 54 seats in the 2018 parliamentary election – more than any other grouping.

Sadr explained during a speech: "To preserve what remains of the country, which the corrupt have burned and are still burning, I am announcing that I will not participate in the coming elections.

"And, I announce the withdrawal of my hand [support] from those belonging to this current government and the subsequent one, even if they claim to belong to us, the al-Sadr family."

Prior to this, his faction had referred more than once to its "entitlement" to the presidency of the coming government.

It had stated it was readying itself for the October poll ahead of acceding to this role.

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Muqtada is one of the sons of deceased Shia spiritual leader Mohammad al-Sadr, who held the title of Grand Ayatollah.

He has millions of followers in Iraq and is in control of a large paramilitary group.

Despite being a long-time adversary of the United States, Sadr also opposes Iranian influence in Iraq.

During his speech, broadcast on his private religious TV channel, Sadr said: "The injustice and corruption that's in Iraq can no longer be erased or reduced, and so everyone is conspiring against the country.

"I don't want to be with them or among them as none of them wants anything but money, power and weapons."

Al-Sadr cautioned: "Be careful before Iraq's fate becomes the same as the fate of Syria, Afghanistan or other countries which have fallen victim to domestic, regional and international politics."

He asked Iraqis to "fight for Iraq against the corrupt, foreign agents and supporters of normalisation [with Israel]", urging that they "never sell [their] country to them for any price."

On Wednesday, he had warned the government, headed by premier Mustafa al-Kadhimi, that he would hold it responsible if it fails to take action over a devastating fire that killed at least 60 people in a Covid-19 isolation unit late on Monday.

The devastating blaze, which swept through the Covid isolation unit of the Al-Hussein Hospital in the southern city of Nasiriyah, was the second such fire in Iraq in three months.

This year's early elections were a key demand by a nationwide protest movement launched in October 2019.

The youth-led movement, at times backed by Sadr's supporters, railed against Iraq's entire political class, which it deemed inept and corrupt.

The parliamentary vote is set to be held under a new electoral law that reduces the size of constituencies and eliminates list-based voting in favour of votes for individual candidates.

(The New Arab, AFP, Reuters)