Supporters of the influential Iraqi Shiite Imam Muqtada al-Sadr, protesting against corruption and political mismanagement, on Sunday, July 31, continue to control the parliament building for the second day in a row Iraq in Baghdad. They set up tents there and began an indefinite sit-in.
“The demonstrators are going on a sit-in until further notice,” al-Sadra’s representatives said in a brief statement to journalists, quoted by state news agency INA.
On the eve of thousands of supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr for the second time in a week broke into the parliament building inside the “Green Zone” of Baghdad, the police used tear gas against them. At least 100 protesters and 25 police officers were injured in the clashes, according to the health ministry. The immediate reason for the storming of the parliament was the decision of the rival Shiite bloc to nominate pro-Iranian figure Mohammed Shiyah al-Sudani for the post of prime minister.
Both the UN and the European Union have warned of rising tensions in Baghdad. An EU official in a communiqué released on Sunday expressed concern about “the ongoing protests and their potential escalation”, calling for “constructive political dialogue”. UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for a “peaceful and inclusive dialogue” to form an effective national government.
Muqtada al-Sadr continues to fight for power
Al-Sadr’s party won the Iraqi elections in October 2021. However, he withdrew his deputies from Parliament after he failed to form a government. He wanted to create an alliance against the Shia parties, most of which receive military and financial support. from Iran and have their own paramilitary groups. As a result, dozens of seats went to an alliance of Shia parties. For nearly a year, Iraq has been left without a president and prime minister as the situation has stalled.
In the struggle for power, al-Sadra’s movement wants to prevent its political opponents from the entourage of former head of government Nuri al-Maliki from forming a government. The 47-year-old religious leader’s rivals presented their candidate for prime minister almost ten months after parliamentary elections. However, from the point of view of al-Sadr, the former minister Mohammed Shiyah al-Sudani, who was nominated for this post, is too close to the ex-premier al-Maliki, who is at odds with al-Sadr. Moreover, al-Maliki and his alliance openly sympathize with neighboring Iran.
Al-Sadr, who is also accused of corruption by his opponents, has a lot of power. His supporters hold influential positions in ministries and state institutions in Iraq. The country has huge oil reserves, but suffers from frequent power outages, low levels of education and health care, and high unemployment, especially among young people.