Supporters of Iraq’s Shia cleric Muqtada Sadr gathered outside Parliament in Baghdad’s Green Zone for Friday prayers, weeks after occupying the building amid a post-election political crisis.
The mass prayer came a few days after Sadr called on the judiciary to dissolve Parliament by the end of next week.
Sadr warned on Wednesday that the Federal Supreme Court of Iraq must heed his call. He said his supporters would continue their sit-in, warning that the protesters would “adopt a different position” if the court failed to dissolve the legislative body.
The judiciary "must dissolve parliament by the end of next week... if not, the revolutionaries will take another stance," Sadr said in a statement on his Twitter account, without elaborating.
Iraq has been grappling with a political crisis in the absence of a functional government since October 2021, when legislative elections were held.
Sadr’s political bloc emerged as the biggest parliamentary faction but fell short of an absolute majority required to form a government. That prompted the current deadlock.
In June, all the 73 legislators of the bloc quit their seats in a move seen as an attempt to pressure political rivals into expediting the formation of a government. Over the past two weeks, thousands of Sadr’s followers, camped at Parliament, have been preventing the formation of a government. The rival parliamentary faction, known as the Coordination Framework, has attempted to shape up a government led by Muhammad Shia Sudani, a figure close to former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
According to reports, opposition groups are also set to hold counter-protests later on Friday.
The outgoing Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi called for a "national dialogue" last week in a bid to bring all sides together to reconcile. In a meeting with President Barham Saleh, the importance of "guaranteeing security and stability" was underscored.
The United Nations has called on various political factions in Iraq to set aside differences and look for "urgent solutions" to the protracted political crisis.
"We appeal to all actors to commit, actively engage, and agree on solutions without delay," the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) said in a statement on August 3. "Leaders must prioritize [the] national interest."
"Meaningful dialogue among all Iraqi parties is now more urgent than ever, as recent events have demonstrated the rapid risk of escalation in this tense political climate."