The Washington Post

Sadr followers camp at parliament for 2nd day

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With mattresses strewn about, food trucked in and protesters playacting as lawmakers, hundreds of followers of an influentia­l Shiite cleric were camped out Sunday inside the Iraqi parliament after toppling security walls around the building and storming in the previous day.

The protesters — followers of cleric Moqtada al-sadr — pledged to hold an open-ended sit-in to derail efforts by their rivals from Iran-backed political groups to form Iraq’s next government. Their demands are lofty: early elections, constituti­onal amendments and the ouster of Sadr’s opponents.

The developmen­ts have plunged Iraq deeper into a political crisis as a power struggle unfolds between the country’s two major Shiite groups.

Sadr has not visited the scene but has egged his loyalists on, tweeting Sunday that the sit-in was “a great opportunit­y to radically challenge the political system, the constituti­on, and the elections.” The Shiite cleric called on all Iraqis to join the “revolution,” an indication that the sit-in is likely to become a drawn-out event.

On Saturday, protesters used ropes and chains to topple concrete walls around the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, then flooded into the assembly building. It was the second such breach last week, but this time they did not disperse peacefully.

The takeover of parliament showed that Sadr was using his large grass-roots following as a pressure tactic against his rivals in the Coordinati­on Framework — an alliance of Shiite parties backed by Iran — after his party was not able to form a government despite having won the largest number of seats in federal elections held in October.

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