IraqMiddle East

Ayatollah Sistani demands early elections to end crisis in Iraq

Iraq’s prominent Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has called for early elections in order to put an end to a months-long political paralysis in the country, saying that a new government should be formed soon.

“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,” Ayatollah Sistani said in a statement read out by his representative Abdul Mahdi al-Karbalaei during a sermon in the holy city of Karbala on Friday.

“We hope that the formation of a new government is not delayed for too long. It should not be an argumentative government and must respond to the challenges of this current phase and be able to restore the prestige of this state and to placate the unrest.”

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On Wednesday, the Iraqi parliament failed to reach a consensus over a new electoral law to pave the way for future parliamentary elections – a central demand of many peaceful protesters.

Iraqi politicians have repeatedly said electoral reforms would make elections fairer, especially as votes have been marred by widespread accusations of fraud and rigging.

The deadlock in parliament also showed that political blocs are genuinely unable to present a substitute for caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, who resigned at the end of last month.

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Protests have rocked primarily the capital Baghdad and southern areas of Iraq for two months over the failing economy and a demand for political and anti-corruption reforms.

The rallies have, however, turned into violent confrontations on numerous occasions, with reports alleging that certain foreign-backed elements have been seeking to wreak havoc on the country.

Since October 1, more than 300 people have been killed in the country, according to the Iraqi parliament’s human rights commission.

Iraq’s parliament on December 1 formally accepted Abdul-Mahdi’s resignation.

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On that same day, Ayatollah Sistani urged lawmakers to reconsider their support for the government.

“We call upon the House of Representatives from which this current government emerged to reconsider its options in that regard,” Ayatollah Sistani said in a statement read out by his representative Abdul Mahdi al-Karbalaei during a weekly sermon in Karbala.

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