News ID: 105481
Publish Date : 08 August 2022 - 21:23

BAGHDAD (AP/Middle East Eye) – Demonstrators blocked roads as protests broke out in southern Iraq on Monday after power outages left many without electricity during scorching peak summer heat.
Temperatures reached 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit), nearly matching last year’s record high. Southern provinces, where the heat wave is most intense in Iraq, suspended working hours.
The Electricity Ministry last week announced a state of alert, anticipating outages as temperatures rise.
In the oil-rich province of Basra, dozens of people took to the streets for a third straight day and burned tires, blocking the main road to the provincial capital, to protest the power cuts.
While protests against power cuts took place in the south, the followers of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr entered their ninth day of a sit-in outside the Iraqi parliament building to demand early elections.
Sadr and Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, the secretary-general of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (Unami), have met at the influential Shia cleric’s residence in Najaf to discuss the country’s political impasse.
Hennis-Plasschaert talked with Sadr about ways in which the differences between Iraq’s political parties could be bridged, sources told Middle East Eye.
Neither side directly revealed what happened during the meeting, which lasted about two hours, but Hennis-Plasschaert told reporters on her departure that she had discussed with the cleric “the importance of finding a solution to the current political crisis,” and that “the talks were very good”.
The political process has been at an impasse since elections last October, with no new government formed in Iraq. Sadrist MPs, who make up the largest parliamentary group, withdrew from parliament in June, leaving the process in the hands of the Shia Coordination Framework.
Tensions between jostling political forces reached a climax last week after thousands of Sadr’s followers stormed the fortified Green Zone in central Baghdad, occupied the parliament building and started an open sit-in inside and around the building.
On Wednesday, Sadr demanded the dissolution of parliament and the holding of early national parliamentary elections in which the old political forces - the current political parties - would not participate. He called on his followers not to end their sit-in until his demands were implemented.
Hennis-Plasschaert is the first non-Sadrist figure the cleric has agreed to meet since June. Sadr has, up to this point, refused to receive calls or visits from diplomats or leaders not allied to him, Sadrist leaders told MEE. Friday’s meeting may mark the end of the political boycott Sadr has imposed on himself since June.
Hennis-Plasschaer’s visit to Hananah, Sadr’s home in Najaf, central Iraq, followed a series of meetings the UN official has held with Iraqi political leaders over the past few days.
On Thursday, Hennis-Plasschaert met Hadi al-Amiri, head of the Fatah parliamentary bloc and key leader of the Coordination Framework, Sadr’s biggest rival. A day earlier, she met Iraqi President Barham Salih.
The statements of the United Nations mission in Baghdad, which were issued in the wake of these meetings, said the UN envoy sought to persuade all parties to calm down and start comprehensive dialogues to dismantle the current impasse.
Sadr emerged as the biggest winner in the October national parliamentary elections. His bloc took 73 seats, and he succeeded in forming the largest parliamentary bloc in alliance with Kurdish and Sunni forces. He was seeking to form a majority government that would exclude his opponents.
Since then, his opponents, who gathered under the umbrella of the Coordination Framework, have sought to form a power-sharing consensual government, as has been the political custom since 2003. This grouping has appealed to the Supreme Judicial Council in its mission to obstruct Sadr.

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