Iraq’s top cleric Sistani makes urgent call for new government

Iraq’s top Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani called for a government to be formed as soon as possible to tackle corruption and poor basic services.

In a Friday sermon delivered by a representative, Ayatollah Sistani also encouraged the incumbent government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to respond urgently to protesters’ demands seeking better basic services and jobs.

“The current government must work hard urgently to implement citizens’ demands to reduce their suffering and misery,” Ayatollah Sistani’s representative said in the Shia holy city of Kerbala.

Anger is mounting at a time when politicians are struggling to form a government after the May 12 election, which was marred by allegations of fraud that prompted a recount.

Ayatollah Sistani, a reclusive octogenarian, is revered by millions of Shia Muslims in Iraq and abroad.

Thousands have protested this month in cities in the long-neglected south, Iraq’s Shia heartland, against the lack of proper government services.

Demonstrations over the same issues have occurred in the past but the unrest this time is more widespread and is politically sensitive. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is seeking a second term after the parliamentary election which was tainted by allegations of corruption.

Ayatollah Sistani said the next prime minister in the new government had to be strong and courageous to fight corruption in government.

“He [the new prime minister] must launch a relentless war against the corrupted and those who protect them,” Sistanis representative said.

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