Senior Iraqi leader Sadr calls for early elections as students join protests
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) — Influential Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr on Monday called for early elections as university and college students in several provinces joined protests marred by violence since they resumed on Friday.
Sadr’s statement comes just two days after the Sairoon parliamentary alliance—which he leads—announced it would be moving to the legislature’s opposition amid flaring public unrest. It also urged other factions to follow suit to force the passage of reforms demanded by anti-corruption protesters across the country.
Sairoon is at the head of one of the two largest blocs in parliament and came first in last year’s election with 54 seats out of a total of 329. After months of political deadlock, along with its competitor—a coalition led by Iranian-backed entities—it agreed to a compromise candidate, Adil Abdul Mahdi, to form a government.
“Brother Adil Abdul Mahdi must appear before parliament to announce early elections under the supervision of the United Nations,” Sadr said in a tweet.
“During this period, all necessary measures will be taken to change the electoral commission and its law, and present it to the people,” he continued, added that existing parties should not partake in the vote “without the consent of the public.”
Iraq’s High Commission for Human Rights on Monday said that five demonstrators had been killed in the capital of Baghdad that day, bringing the total of deaths due to demonstrations across the country to upwards of 80 people since Friday. There had also reportedly been close to 300 injured individuals on Monday.
Earlier that day, Baghdad Operations Command released a statement calling on education faculty members and parents to disallow students from joining the protests. It also imposed a curfew.
In defiance of the authorities in Baghdad and several other major cities in central and southern Iraq, thousands of students took to the streets to echo demands for improvement in the governance of the country, which has been plagued with crippling corruption 16 years after the fall of the former Iraqi regime.
Iraqi security forces are alleged to have fired tear gas canisters at university students, videos posted on social media purported to show.
Editing by Nadia Riva