As protests continue to grow across Iraq’s Shi’ite-dominated southeast, cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, the leader of the party with the most seats in the May election, is calling for a delay in forming a new government until the demands of protesters are met.
Protests began last week in Basra, the key oil port, and have spread across the region. Protesters are complaining about poor government services, and repeated electricity cuts. They have stormed government buildings during many protests, and clashed with police.
Many of the protests center on claims of corruption, particularly among local officials. Sadr, whose party’s election victory came on the back on public anger about the existing government, is naturally backing the protests.
Delaying the formation of the government seems to be an attempt to avoid getting his political bloc tainted by the unrest. At the same time, promises of reform during the campaign will make it hard for the bloc to explain why forming a government should only come after protesters’ demands are met, instead of before.