Baghdad [Iraq], August 4 (ANI): Influential Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr urged his supporters on Wednesday to continue their sit-in inside the national parliament in Baghdad until his demands, including dissolution of parliament and early elections, are met.
"Dissolve parliament and hold early elections," al-Sadr said in a televised address from Najaf on Wednesday, signalling a deepening power struggle with his rivals that may prolong the political deadlock.
Al-Sadr reiterated during his address that he was ready to "be martyred" for his cause, Al Jazeera reported.
Thousands of supporters of al-Sadr stormed the heavily fortified parliament building in Baghdad on Saturday for the second time.
For the past 5 days, the protestors are continuing their sit-in inside the building.
Al-Sadr supporters have set up an encampment with tents and food stalls surrounding parliament, according to Al Jazeera.
This move came in response to attempts by his rivals, mainly the Iran-backed Coordination Framework, to form a government with prime ministerial candidates of whom al-Sadr does not approve.
Notably, Al-Sadr's bloc won 73 seats in Iraq's October 2021 election, making it the largest faction in the 329-seat parliament but, ever since the vote, talks to form a new government have stalled, and Al-Sadr stepped down from the political process. A deadlock persists over the establishment of a new government.
Al-Sadr, who once led an anti-US militia and who has millions of devoted followers, noted in his speech that he also had "no interest" in negotiating with his rivals.
"Don't believe the rumours that I don't want dialogue," Sadr said.
"But we have already tried and experienced dialogue with them," he said adding "It has brought nothing to us and to the nation - only ruin and corruption."The deadlock between al-Sadr and his rivals has left Iraq without a government for a record time in the post-Saddam Hussein era, reported Al Jazeera.
Former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki tweeted in support of continued dialogue based on the constitution.
"Serious dialogues, from which we hope to resolve differences and restore things to their rightful place, begin with a return to the constitution and respect for constitutional institutions," he tweeted.
Earlier on Wednesday, the United Nations mission in Iraq called on leaders to put their country first and end the long-running power struggle.
"Meaningful dialogue among all Iraqi parties is now more urgent than ever, as recent events have demonstrated the rapid risk of escalation in this tense political climate," the UN mission warned.
In 2016 too al-Sadr's supporters stormed the parliament in a similar fashion. They staged a sit-in and issued demands for political reform after then-Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi sought to replace party-affiliated ministers with technocrats in an anti-corruption drive.
Mass protests erupted in 2019 amid public anger over corruption and unemployment and this current protest poses a challenge for the oil-rich country. (ANI)