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Al-Sadr Upsets Political Balance

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Salam Zidan – Yalla – Baghdad

Political blocs, especially that of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, are concerned by the massive demonstrations organised at the call of leader of the Sadrist Movement Muqtada al-Sadr. Hundreds of thousands of his supporters have gathered in Tahrir Square in the centre of Baghdad, and have threatened to break into the Green Zone. Al-Sadr set a deadline of 45 days for the implementation of his proposals including “the formation of a technocratic government and the expulsion and holding accountable of corrupt officials from governmental offices”.

“Today the Square is full of banners, I can’t imagine there is a political bloc admitting responsibility for corruption, everybody denies any responsibility,” Abadi said. “The political blocs impose their ministers on the Prime Minister and we persevere with them.”

Al-Sadr told protestors that he believes Abadi’s position is at stake, but according to the Prime Minister “threats do not produce results.”

 “Al-Sadr’s speech talks about transferring the demonstration to the Green Zone so that it has more effect, that by the presence of demonstrations near presidential palaces and parliament buildings, decision makers will feel the crises and realise the necessity to take action and find solutions,” Dhiaa al-Asadi, leader of Al-Ahrar Bloc (widely regarded a Sadrist movement) explained to Yalla. The Green Zone is home to government offices, high-ranking officials and foreign embassies. “The location for the next demonstration will depend on al-Sadr’s decision. If the greatest benefit is for everybody to demonstrate in Baghdad so be it. If not, everyone will demonstrate in their governorates.”

Asadi explained that if Abadi or other politicians don’t accept al-Sadr’s proposals for, then they must make their objections clear. Asadi believes the proposals must be considered by Ammar al-Hakim, leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq.

“We consider the proposals to be supportive of Abadi and he would benefit from implementing the reforms, especially as they have been demanded at a sensitive period,” Asadi added. “The Sadrist Movement ministers have all offered their resignations to the Prime Minister and are ready to withdraw from the government whenever Abadi requests them to. I hope the people in power make a swift decision and change the government cabinet.”

Asadi said that the Sadrist Movement is calling for the technocratic government even if the Movement isn’t represented in the new cabinet.

Saad al-Muttalibi, member of the National Alliance parliamentary Bloc told Yalla: “Al-Sadr didn’t set a deadline to break into the Green Zone, and heading in this direction isn’t right, especially since he is part of the political process. I don’t believe al-Sadr is a supporter of overthrowing the Iraqi government completely.”

He continued, “The Sadrist Movement demonstrations are an attempt to support the reforms launched by Abadi, especially since al-Sadr has given up all his ministries and has allowed Abadi freedom to move and act.”

Watheq al-Hashimi, president of the Iraq Institute for Strategic Studies spoke to Yalla and confirmed that the political blocs with ministers in Abadi’s government are talking about reforms. “Today everyone is riding the waves of the reforms. You can’t talk about reforms if you have a representative in Abadi’s government,” he said.

“How many officials from the Sadrist Movement live in the Green Zone?” he asked in amazement at al-Sadr’s speech regarding breaking in.

Al-Hashimi believes that the public will accept reforms from the opposition but not from those already represented in the government.

“The present feeling in the political process is for ministerial changes, but because Iraqi politicians refuse to be in the opposition, they are trying to obtain an executive post. The current talks are a kind of negotiation and we will possibly witness an escalation next week, created by the political blocs to put pressure on Abadi to accept their nominees,” Al-Hashimi said. “I don’t believe the demonstrations will continue only in Baghdad, but could spread to all the governorates, this is a very serious matter. Al-Sadr should ask his ministers to submit their resignations.”

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