Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr issued an address on Monday aimed at increasing pressure on the Iraqi government led by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to follow through on proposed reforms to government spending, administration and corruption.
In a televised address, the controversial cleric demanded that the Iraqi government “allocate a share for each Iraqi citizens from the oil revenues.” The speech also included proposals to deal with widespread corruption, the administration of public services, and the sectarian quota system, however, no actual policy details were included in his comments.
For several weeks, followers of Sadr have been protesting the government, with thousands gathering in sit-ins in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad since Friday. Sadr urged his followers and all Iraqis to march on the heavily guarded “Green Zone,” an area of central Baghdad that is home to most of Iraq’s government buildings as well as major embassies of the United States and United Kingdom.
Prime Minister Abadi has proposed reforms dating back to last year aimed at tackling wasteful government spending and administration of public services.
Recent attempts by Abadi to change his cabinet to include more technocrats has been met with significant resistance in the Iraqi parliament. Parliamentary blocs, including the powerful Dawa Party, have pushed back on proposed changes for fear of losing key government posts which are lucrative positions that help feed a vast system of patronage for supporters.
The unrest has also been triggered by rock bottom oil prices that have put an enormous strain on Iraq’s resources as its forces wage war against ISIS militants. The conflict against ISIS, low oil prices and pervasive corruption have meant that the Iraqi government has cut back on public services and health care.