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IRAQ: Clergy voice frustrations over country's political drift

June 12, 2010 |  8:32 am

The formation of the next government was the topic of conversation in Shiite and Sunni mosques across Iraq this weekend. With parliament to be seated on Monday, clerics demanded a better performance from their politicians, whose records have been checkered at best. The clergy alluded to the damage caused by the country’s bloodshed over the last four years and the public sector’s endemic corruption Until now, intense political competition makes the seating of the next government look unlikely before September. Even the formal merger of two competing Shiite-led coalitions late Thursday appears to have done little to break the deadlock. 

Faced with the country’s political uncertainty, clerics spoke out and voiced the public’s frustrations and fears.They made clear their impatience with the turgid negotiations since March elections and emphasized they wanted real results from the next government and not business as usual.

In the Shiite holy city of Karbala, the representative of the most influential Shiite cleric in Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, warned the time was gone for false promises of projects to improve the lives of the people. Sistani’s representative, Sayed Ahmed Saafi, told worshipers at Friday prayers that the next government would have to deliver on public projects. He urged politicians to come to agreement for the good of Iraq.

“We ask the brothers and the political  parties and political blocs to exert their efforts to reach results which serve this country,” Saafi said.  “There are stalled projects although they have been approved [by the government].... We call upon all politicians to work without slogans until projects are executed [in] a surprise to the people far from [the eye of the] media.’

In the northern city of Mosul, cleric Sheik Abdul Satar Ahmed gave voice to the worries of the region’s Sunni population.  His concerns echoed those of Sistani’s representative in Karbala. The cleric insisted the next government needed to deliver on its promises of a better life. “The winners should work to improve security, services, job opportunities and the standard of living for people,” the cleric said. He made clear he was frustrated by the political squabbling and slow pace of negotiations.

“The winners should work to improve security, services, job opportunities and the standard of living for people,” the cleric said.

-- Nadeem Hamid in Baghdad
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