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Iraqi cleric Hakim calls on political parties to engage in dialogue, develop national initiative

Supporters of the Coordination Framework hold posters depicting Iraq's most prominent Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani during a counter-protest against Sadr's loyalists, who have been occupying the parliament, outside the capital Baghdad's high-security Green Zone on August 1, 2022. (Photo by AFP)

A senior Iraqi Shia cleric has called for political dialogue between the Arab country’s rival factions, as supporters of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr continue an open-ended occupation of the parliament amid a deepening political standoff over the formation of a new government.

Head of the National Wisdom political coalition Sayyed Ammar al-Hakim said on Tuesday that he supports outgoing Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s call on protesters to remain calm and avoid attacking security forces and his appeal to political parties in the country to negotiate and reach a common ground.

Hakim called on all demonstrators to exercise self-restraint, respect state institutions, protect public and private properties, cooperate with law enforcement forces, and not put society’s peace, security, and stability at risk.

He also urged all political parties to develop a national initiative and engage in a “constructive dialogue” to resolve the crisis.

Tensions have soared in Iraq over the failure to form a government nearly 10 months after last October’s legislative elections, which marked the country’s longest post-election deadlock.

Thousands of Iraqi demonstrators staged a protest on Monday at the edge of Baghdad’s heavily-fortified Green Zone, which houses government departments and foreign missions, as Sadr’s supporters extended their occupation of parliament into the third day.

“The people will not allow a coup,” read placards held by supporters of the Coordination Framework bloc as they gathered on a main street.

“It is the parliament of the people, of all Iraqis, not the parliament of a select group,” 25-year-old protester Ahmed Ali said, condemning “the storming” of government institutions.

Sadr on Sunday took to Twitter to call on political factions in the Arab country to support his followers who have breached the parliament and are preparing for a long sit-in at the legislative body.

He lauded a “spontaneous revolution” in the Green Zone as “the first step towards an extraordinary opportunity for a fundamental change.”

Sadr also called on “everyone... to support the reformist revolutionaries.”

Tribes and wider security forces were among the elements that he urged to join the protest which is now in its third day.

On Saturday, supporters of Sadr forced their way into the legislative chamber and suspended a session to nominate a new prime minister.

Demonstrators oppose the candidacy of Mohammed Shia al-Sudani for the premier’s post.

Sadr’s bloc emerged from elections in October as the biggest parliamentary faction, but was still far short of a majority, causing the longest political vacuum in the country since the 2003 devastating invasion of the Arab country led by the United States.

In June, all 73 legislators of the bloc quit their seats in a move seen as an attempt to pressure political rivals into fast-tracking the formation of a government.

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