Muqtada al-Sadr says he is withdrawing support from the current government and what will be elected to replace him.
Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr has announced he will not run in the next Iraqi elections in October, saying he will withdraw his support for the current government and who will be elected to replace him.
Al-Sadr, one of the most influential figures in Iraq, led a political bloc that became the largest in the 2018 parliamentary elections, with 54 seats in the 329-seat legislature.
“To preserve what is left of the country and save the country … I inform you that I will not run in this election,” al-Sadr said on Thursday.
Addressing the “great Iraqi people,” he said in a televised speech: “Don’t sell your homeland. [to the corrupt] at any price, it is more valuable than anything else ”.
Al-Sadr, a longtime U.S. opponent in Iraq who has also opposed Iranian influence in the country, has millions of followers in Iraq and controls a large paramilitary group.
The effect of al-Sadr’s announcement was difficult to assess immediately. He has previously retired from front-line politics for years at a time and has typically exercised his power without holding an elected office. Even if he does not run, candidates loyal to him could run in the election, which will allow him to maintain his influence.
The boycott could be a blow to the electoral plans of Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, who had called for early voting in response to demands from pro-democracy activists.
For the past two years, al-Sadr’s political organization has quietly dominated the Iraqi state apparatus. Its members have held senior positions in the Ministries of Interior, Defense and Communications.
“Satanic regional scheme”
Al-Sadr said he was “withdrawing the hand of those who belong to this current government and the next.”
He said Iraq was being the subject of a “satanic regional scheme to humiliate the country and bring it to its knees,” driven by fear of those seeking reform and eradicating corruption.
“If our homeland is hostage to injustice and tragedy, its fate may fall victim to local, regional and international policies,” he said.
Al-Sadr’s comments come as many countries in the country mourn the deaths of at least 90 people who died in a fire that passed through a coronavirus room at a hospital in southern Iraq.
Officials said more than 100 people were injured in the blaze at al-Hussein teaching hospital Monday night in Nasiriya, highlighting the country’s paralyzed health system after decades of war and sanctions.
Officials, including President Barham Salih, blamed the incident for rampant corruption, mismanagement and abandonment.
In April, an explosion similar to a COVID-19 hospital in the capital, Baghdad, killed at least 82 people and injured 110 others.
Driven by anger over official corruption, high unemployment and poor public services, waves of anti-government protests have been raging across the country since October 2019.
Protesters have demanded the departure of the country’s ruling elite and a overhaul of the political system established in the wake of the 2003 US-led invasion.