Iraq’s prominent Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Sistani has called on legislators to promptly introduce a fair electoral law that would restore people’s faith in elections in the wake of weeks of protests in the capital Baghdad and a host of southern cities.
“No one can give the government legitimacy but the people… Passing a law that does not provide this opportunity to voters would not be acceptable or useful,” Ayatollah Sistani said in a statement read out by his representative Abdul Mahdi al-Karbalaei during a sermon in the holy city of Karbala on Friday.
The Grand Ayatollah also said ongoing protests are important in bringing about reform, but must allow for a return to normal life.
“The protests have helped and will help pressure political groups, the government … to reform and accept change,” Abdul-Mahdi said at the time.
He added, “However continuing protests must allow for a return to normal life, which will lead to legitimate demands being met.”
Ayatollah Sistani also said on Friday that Iraq will be deeply marked by weeks of demonstrations demanding sweeping reform, urging authorities to enact the necessary reforms in response to the anti-government demonstrations.
“If those in power think that they can evade the benefits of real reform by stalling and procrastination, they are delusional,” the revered cleric said.
“What comes after these protests will not be the same as before, and they should be aware of that,” Ayatollah Sistani pointed out.
He also lambasted government promises of reform as too little and too late.
“In response to the protesters’ demands, nothing notable has been achieved on the ground so far,” Ayatollah Sistani said.
Abdul-Mahdi has vowed that the government and judiciary would continue to investigate the deaths of the protesters, and that all demonstrators who have been arrested in the past several weeks would be released.