Communists,  Islamists join hands in Iraq

Iraq will hold parliamentary elections in May. In the runup to the polls, an unprecedented alliance has turned heads.

Published: 15th March 2018 04:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th March 2018 03:16 AM   |  A+A-

Iraq will hold parliamentary elections in May. In the runup to the polls, an unprecedented alliance has turned heads. A party led by a black-turbaned Shiite cleric has joined hands with the once-powerful communist party

Unprecedented alliance

Populist preacher Moqtada Sadr has defied his clerical rivals and opted to campaign for the May 12 poll alongside former enemies, Marxists, who demand a secular state. “It’s a revolution by Iraqis who want reforms—both secularists, like the communists, and by moderate Islamists,” Ibrahim al-Jaberi, a Sadrist official, was quoted as saying by AFP

From a dynasty of religious leaders

Jaberi, a 34-year-old cleric who sports a red beard along with his black turban and gown, heads every Friday to central Baghdad’s Tahrir Square to address hundreds of anti-government protesters. “This alliance is no surprise because for more than two years we’ve been fighting together in every province against sectarianism,” he said

Civil society activists launched the protest movement in July 2015, demanding reforms, better public services and an end to corruption. They were later joined by followers of Sadr, the populist scion of a dynasty of religious elders

Crushed by Saddam Hussein

Communists dominated Iraqi politics in the 1950s, but were crushed and marginalised under dictator Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party. Today, the party has just one member of parliament. Shiite religious parties have come to play a greater role in the years since the US-led 2003 invasion of Iraq that toppled Saddam

‘Marching towards Reform’

The alliance, dubbed “Marching towards Reform”, is made up of six mostly non-Islamist groups, including the communists, and a Sadr-backed technocratic party called Istiqama (“Integrity”). Sadr has withdrawn his Ahrar bloc from parliament and urged its 33 MPs not to stand in the May poll, in order to make way for the joint list

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