BAGHDAD (AFP) – A top parliamentarian from radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s political bloc on Tuesday called for the dissolution of Iraq’s parliament and the holding of fresh legislative elections.
“If the parliament continues to work the way it is, it will be an obstacle to democracy. I demand that President (Jalal) Talabani dissolves the parliament and holds fresh elections,” Baha al-Aaraji, spokesman for the 32-member Sadr parliamentary bloc, told reporters.
Stressing that he was expressing his personal views and not those of the bloc, Aaraji said parliament was “not representing the aspirations of the Iraqi people.
“This parliament is a source of worry to the Iraqi people. The sectarian differences are evident among the parliament’s members and that is affecting the people,” he said.
Aaraji said the differences were causing the delay of key legislation such as the oil law and the de-Baathification law.
“The oil law for example has many negatives but 70 percent of the law is aimed at serving the people. But some groups have taken the decision to reject the law. There is no discussion on this,” he said.
“We have to discuss and see what benefits the people and then iron out the negatives.”
The bill opens up the long state-dominated oil and gas sector to foreign investment and provides assurances that receipts will be shared equally between Iraq’s 18 provinces, a measure Washington regards as key to efforts to reconcile the country’s divided communities.
Aaraji said the de-Baathification bill, which will reverse a prohibition on former members of ousted dictator Saddam Hussein’s Baath party holding public office, is also being held up in parliament.
“There should be a proper judicial criteria. Not all Baathists are criminals. There are some Saddamists who should be held accountable. But this law has become a means to politicise the issue,” he said.
Nassar al-Rubaie, the head of the Sadr bloc in the parliament, said Aaraji was “expressing his personal views.”
“He is not representing the official position of the bloc.”
The Sadr bloc on September 15 withdrew its 32 MPs from the Shiite coalition heading Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s national unity government in Baghdad.
While it stressed it had no intention of pushing Maliki out of his job, it accused him of failing to consult the bloc over decisions affecting the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) coalition.
It also expressed its dissatisfaction that the prime minister had ordered an inquiry into the movement’s Mahdi Army militia, widely blamed for fomenting violence during a Shiite pilgrimage in the shrine city of Karbala in August that killed 52 people.
The UIA initially comprised four key Shiite factions — the Sadr group, the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC), Maliki’s Dawa party and the Fadhila party — and held 130 of the 275 seats in parliament.
However, the number dropped to 115 when the Fadhila party pulled out in March. It shrunk later after Sadr bloc’s withdrawal.
Maliki’s government can now count on the support of only 136 MPs, including 53 from two Kurdish groups.