Iraq’s top Islamic cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has expressed his support for early parliamentary elections, a key demand of protesters who staged months of demonstrations last year against corruption and poor economic conditions.
“The parliamentary elections scheduled for next year are of great importance,” Ayatollah Sistani said in an online statement after a meeting with UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Iraq Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert in the holy city of Najaf on Sunday.
He added that Iraqis should be encouraged to actively participate in the polls, warning that failing to hold the elections as scheduled or in a free and fair way would “threaten the unity and future of Iraq’s people.”
For her part, the UN official said, “If done in the right way, in the right and credible way, they (early elections) could open an important chapter for the country.”
Ayatollah Sistani has himself been a proponent of early elections, which is seen as an important step to help overcome the existing problems gripping the Arab country.
Iraq’s parliament approved on December 24 last year a new electoral law, which allows voters to elect individual lawmakers instead of choosing from party lists, and requires each member of parliament to represent a specific electoral district instead of groups of legislators representing entire provinces.
Prime Minister Mustafa al- Kadhimi announced in late July that Iraq would hold parliamentary elections nearly a year early.
“June 6, 2021, has been fixed as the date for the next legislative elections. Everything will be done to protect and ensure the success of these polls,” he said in a televised speech on July 31.
The next parliamentary elections in Iraq had originally been set for May 2022.
The UN praised Kadhimi’s announcement, saying it would promote “greater stability and democracy” in Iraq.
Kadhimi was sworn into office in May after his predecessor, Adel Abdul-Mahdi, stepped down last year in the face of mass anti-government protests and rallies.