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Iraqi leadership back Sistani’s advice on elections

Iraq’s three leaders, the president, prime minister, and parliament speaker, are united in their support for a statement from the highest Shiite authority in Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, backing early elections held with “integrity and transparency.”

Iraqi President Barham Salih received Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, head of the UN mission in Iraq, in Sulaimani on Sunday, where she traveled after meeting with Sistani.

“We confirm our support for the statement of the Supreme religious authority, His Eminence Ali Al-Sistani, that the upcoming elections are determinative, and the requirements for their integrity must be provided, as with the government program in pursuing criminals and combating corruption, enhancing the performance of the security forces, and imposing the prestige of the state,” read a statement published by Salih’s office after their meeting.

Hennis-Plasschaert had discussed the elections with Sistani during their meeting in Najaf.

“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 quoted him as saying during their discussion.

“It is imperative that integrity and transparency be observed in the various stages of the [electoral] process, and supervision and control shall be carried out in a serious manner in coordination with the competent department in the United Nations mission,” Sistani added.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi announced in July that the country’s next parliamentary elections will take place on June 6, 2021, a year early.

Sistani does not get directly involved in politics but his comments carry a lot of weight. Kadhimi said on Sunday the government is following the “path and guidelines” of Sistani.

”With an abundance of appreciation, respect and gratitude, we received the directives of His Eminence, the Supreme Leader Ali al-Sistani (may God bless him), while he received Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations to Iraq,” reads the statement from Kadhimi’s office quoting the prime minister.

“We affirm that the path and guidelines of the Supreme leader [Marajayah] that represent the starting points and priorities of the honorable Iraqi people are our permanent guide towards achieving the aspirations of our people in early free, fair and honest elections,” it continues.

Iraq’s electoral commission said in August it would be ready to hold early elections, provided the government and parliament meet 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 the country’s biggest ethnic components – Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds. Abandonment of the sectarian system was among demands made by protesters who took to Iraq’s streets in October 2019 and have stayed there.

A draft electoral law that could redraw the political map is currently moving through parliament. Speaker of the parliament, Mohammed al-Halboosi, like the president and prime minister, said he supports Sistani’s message.

“Remarks of the Supreme leader reflect the demands of the Iraqi people. We have worked and will keep working in order to build an institutional and civilized state,” Halboosi tweeted.

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.

Kadhimi also revealed that the Iraqi government has concluded the first phase of its probe into killings of protesters over the past year, verifying the number of people killed. The second phase will focus on identifying the killers of the protesters.

“The government is determined to hold accountable those involved in killing Iraqis, and the first phase of verification and investigation has ended by counting the victims of the martyrs and wounded of the events of October 2019 and its aftermath, and the second phase of judicial investigation will soon begin, identifying those involved in shedding Iraqi blood and handing them over to justice,” read the statement from Kadhimi’s office. Source