Shia leader Muqtada Al-Sadr has criticised Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki and his government, calling Al-Maliki a dictator who runs an authoritarian tyranny.
The cleric stated that Al-Maliki's government violates the rights of the Iraqi people of all sects, as well as oppresses and detains its opponents in the name of Shiites. "The Iraqi government sheds the blood of Iraqis and steals the country's wealth," he said. Al-Sadr reiterated his earlier announcement that he will withdraw from political life and dissolve his political movement, but called on his supporters to still participate in the upcoming elections.
Iraq's Hammurabi news agency quoted sources earlier as saying that Al-Sadr's decision comes after learning of a conspiracy to oust him and his movement by Al-Maliki and his government.
At least 19 members of the parliamentary bloc affiliated with Al-Sadr have submitted their resignations following his announcement.
A member of the Shia coalition known as the National Iraqi Alliance, Ahmad Masari, told Arabiya news agency that Al-Sadr's resignation will only serve the other political parties in the National Alliance and boost Al-Maliki's position, allowing him to return for a third term as prime minister.
A member of the Al-Sadrist parliamentary bloc, MP Thafer El-Ani, noted that while Al-Sadr's decision is unexpected, his critique of the Al-Maliki government is not a surprise. "We are appealing to the Al-Sadrist movement to convince him to reconsider his decision, which will lead to a significant imbalance within Iraq's political process," he said.