Iraq's Shiite cleric reiterates call for gov't reform

Source: Xinhua 2016-03-05 02:43:59

BAGHDAD, March 4 (Xinhua) -- A firebrand Shiite cleric on Friday reiterated his call for government anti-corruption reforms, as thousands of his supporters rallied in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad in one of the biggest show of strength.

Thousands of people gathered at the entrance to the heavily fortified Green Zone in central Baghdad, demanding reforms, including government reshuffle, better services and an end to corruption in response to an earlier call by Moqtada al-Sadr whose al-Ahrar parliamentary bloc holds 34 seats in the 328-seat parliament and three cabinet posts.

"A chance must be given to people who are competent and independent, and those who brought Iraq into the abyss, in particular those influential parties, should step aside," Moqtada al-Sadr said in his address while protestors waving with hundreds of Iraqi flags in front of the main gate of the Green Zone.

The protests followed a similar rally last week, when thousands of Sadr supporters gathered in Tahrir Square in downtown Baghdad, during which, Sadr delivered a speech and warned Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi that his post is "at stake" if he fails to take decisive actions to root out corruption.

On Feb. 13, Sadr announced a proposal of reform plan, which included forming a technocrat government away from partisanship.

His proposed plan came following similar demands from Iraqi political and religious elites after the failure of previous reform packages announced last summer by Abadi, which aimed at enabling his cabinet to confront the country's economic crisis due to the sharp decrease in oil prices in global markets.

Last year, Abadi's reform plan, first, gained popular support but with the passing of time the reforms fell short to convince many demonstrators who continued their protests and demanded that Abadi be more aggressive against the political parties that benefited from corruption and could reverse the reforms to their own good.