Iraq's Al Sadr calls on public to ‘save’ the country through elections

The leading Shiite cleric launches hashtag in the run-up to October 10 ballot

Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr speaks during a news conference with Leader of the Conquest Coalition and the Iran-backed ShiÕite militia Badr Organisation Hadi al-Amiri, in Najaf, Iraq June 12, 2018. REUTERS/Alaa al-Marjani
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Iraq's popular political leader Moqtada Al Sadr on Tuesday urged his supporters to "save" the country at the ballot box.

In a short message on Twitter, Mr Al Sadr launched the hashtag "Saving Iraq is a National Duty" in an effort to rally support for his bloc's candidates in the October 10 parliamentary election.

The Shiite cleric is known to be one of Iraq’s most influential religious figures, leading a political bloc in Parliament that was the biggest winner of the 2018 elections with 54 seats out of 329.

Iraq has been beset by a wave of public-service issues, including hospital fires, power cuts in the blazing summer heat and a lack of employment opportunities for the youth and security.

For years, Mr Al Sadr's movement, known as the Sadrist Movement, has been voicing their views from a nationalist perspective. It has sought to detach itself from Iran-backed militias in Iraq.

Following the US-led invasion in 2003, Mr Al Sadr led militants against the US forces, which increased his popularity among Iraq's impoverished Shiites.

His father, Sadiq Al Sadr, led dissent among Shiite majority against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and was killed by the regime in 1999.

In the past few years, Mr Al Sadr has withdrawn from frontline politics without dismantling his powerful movement.

In July, he changed his political stance and said he would boycott the parliamentary elections that are set to be held on October 10.

Mr Al Sadr said he wanted to distance himself from the government.

He reversed his decision again by the end of August and expressed willingness to participate in the elections. He urged his supporters to go to the polls and vote.

A vote for his movement, he said earlier, would mean an Iraq liberated from foreign meddling and rampant corruption.

Updated: September 28, 2021, 12:42 PM