Populist Iraqi Shia Muslim cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr said today that he and his supporters would take part in an October general election, reversing a decision last month to stay out, Reuters reported.
Al-Sadr's bloc is part of a coalition that holds the most seats in parliament now, and is likely to be one of the frontrunners in the vote, which was called early by Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi as a response to popular protests from 2019.
Al0Sadr said in a televised address that the reversal of the decision came after a number of political leaders, whom he did not identify, had written to him with a "charter for reform" to rid Iraq of corruption and mismanagement.
He urged supporters to go to the polls and vote in the early election scheduled for 10 October. A vote for his movement, he said, would mean an Iraq liberated from foreign meddling and rampant graft.
"We will enter these elections with vigour and determination, in order to save Iraq from occupation and corruption," Al-Sadr said.
Al-Sadr, who commands a loyal following of millions of Iraqis, is one of the most powerful political leaders in Iraq and has grown his influence over state institutions in recent years.
Sadr loyalists hold official posts with control of a large portion of the country's wealth and patronage networks. Detractors accuse Al-Sadr and his supporters, like other Iraqi parties, of being involved in corruption within state institutions – a charge Sadrists reject.
Al-Sadr, an unpredictable and wily political operator, opposes the presence of US troops, of which some 2,500 remain in Iraq, and rejects the influence of neighbouring Iran – a position at odds with many rival Shia politicians and armed groups who are loyal to Tehran.