Cleric Moqtada al-Sadr says Iraqis should unite instead of seeking repeat of election

Cleric Moqtada al-Sadr says Iraqis should unite instead of seeking repeat of election

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraqi Cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called on Iraqis on Monday to unite instead of burning ballot boxes and seeking to repeat an election on May 12 that his bloc won.

Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr speaks during a news conference with Iraqi politician Ammar al-Hakim, leader of the Hikma Current, in Najaf, Iraq May 17, 2018. REUTERS/Alaa al-Marjani/Files

“Stop fighting for seats, posts, gains, influence, power, and rulership,” he wrote in an article published by his office, a day after a storage site housing half of Baghdad’s ballot boxes from the election caught fire.

Sadr, a longtime adversary of the United States who also opposes Iran’s vast influence in Iraq, scored a surprise victory in the election.

“Is it not time to stand as one for building and reconstruction instead of burning ballet boxes or repeating elections just for one seat or two?,” Sadr wrote.

“Is it not time to disarm and hand over weapons to the state instead of storing it in mosques so that it explodes and kills the innocent?”

The election was the first since the defeat of Islamic State raised hopes that Iraqis could put aside their communal and sectarian divisions and reconstruct the country.

Parliament has mandated a full manual recount. The Independent High Elections Commission had used electronic vote- counting devices to tally the results.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi described the fire as a “plot” aimed at Iraq’s democracy.

Abadi, whose electoral alliance came third in the election, had said that a government investigation had found serious violations and blamed Iraq’s independent elections commission for most of them.

Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein, Writing by Michael Georgy, Editing by Angus MacSwan

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