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Sistani: Iraq’s early elections ‘of great importance’

Iraq’s highest Shiite religious authority has said that the country’s parliamentary elections in 2021 are of “great importance”, warning that any delay in a vote will only “deepen” Iraq’s problems.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani’s remarks on the early elections came at a meeting with Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations in Iraq on Sunday.

“The parliamentary elections scheduled to take place next year are of great importance, and they must be provided with the necessary conditions that give their results a high degree of credibility,” a readout from Sistani’s office published after the meeting quoted him as saying.

Iraqi prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi announced in July that the country’s next parliamentary elections would take place on June 6, 2021, a year earlier than scheduled.

Iraq’s Independent High Election Commission said in August that it would be ready to hold the early elections – provided that government and parliament meets certain demands, including passing a new electoral law and allocating a budget for the vote.

The commission was overhauled by parliament after the last parliamentary election, held in May 2018, because of complaints over how it handled allegations of fraud.

Iraq’s electoral system, built after the US invasion of 2003, divides power among Iraq’s biggest ethnic components – Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds. An overhaul of the sectarian system was among demands made by protesters who took to Iraq’s streets from October 2019 onward.

A draft electoral law that could redraw the political map is currently moving through parliament.

Sistani described the early elections as “the correct and peaceful path out of the current impasse that the country suffers from as a result of the accumulation of its political, economic, security, health, service and other crises.”

“It is imperative that the citizens have the opportunity to reconsider their political options and to vote freely and free from any pressure from here or there to their representatives in the next parliament,” he added. Source