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Sadr rival demands parliament reconvene as sit-in continues

Published: Updated:

Former Iraqi prime minister Nuri al-Maliki on Monday called for the resumption of legislative sessions, after his political rivals occupied parliament for almost a week, deepening political tensions.

Though supporters of the powerful Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have not camped inside the legislative complex since Friday, they continue a sit-in in the gardens around it, inside Baghdad’s normally secure Green Zone.

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They are protesting a nomination for the post of prime minister by the rival Shia Coordination Framework, to which Maliki belongs and which is backed by Iran.

The protest is part of pressure tactics by al-Sadr after months of negotiations following October elections failed to produce a new government, prime minister and president.

Last Wednesday al-Sadr called for the dissolution of parliament and early polls.

But in televised remarks Monday, Maliki said: “Neither the dissolution of parliament nor the change of the regime nor early elections will be possible without the resumption of parliamentary sessions.”

Parliament “alone discusses these demands and what it decides we will execute,” he continued in his speech marking the Shia mourning ritual of Ashura.

Sadr’s bloc had emerged as the largest in parliament following the October ballot but in June 73 of his lawmakers quit in a bid to break the deadlock over forming a new government.

That led to the Coordination Framework becoming the largest bloc in the legislature.

On Thursday the Framework had said they were conditionally open to al-Sadr’s call for new elections, signaling a potential de-escalation.

But they suggested the occupation of parliament must end.

According to the constitution, the legislature can only be dissolved through a vote passed by an absolute majority. A vote can be requested by a third of lawmakers, or by the prime minister with the president’s approval.

Read more: Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr prepares for new show of force

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