In Iraq, the political class united in the status quo

Faced with the challenge of power, Ayatollah Sistani criticized the lack of reforms in a virulent sermon.

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In Kerbala, November 13, 2019, organized by the militia of the Popular Mobilization. Laurent Van der Stockt for "The World"

At 45e day of mobilization, the protest against power in Iraq no longer has the vigor of the first days, but it does not seem to want to die after a crackdown that has killed at least 320. Protesters still camped in Baghdad's Tahrir Square on Friday, November 15, despite an explosion that killed at least one person. Earlier, the sermon of Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani sounded like an encouragement to the continuation of the movement and a disavowal of the political class, united in maintaining the status quo. "If those in power think they can evade real reforms by gaining time and procrastinating, they are delusional," said the representative of the top Shia cleric, Ahmad Al-Safi, adding that "Iraq will not be the same anymore" after these demonstrations.

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Rarely had the religious dignitary expressed so much. His ascendancy on the Shiite street is disputed by this youth who rejects any authority, political or religious. At each Friday sermon, she reproached him for his timorous stance. Despite his support for the demands for reform, his condemnation of the repression and his rejection of any foreign interference, particularly Iranian, Ayatollah Sistani is content to call the political class to a jump without questioning the system. The high-ranking Shiite official even denied, on November 9, a secret agreement – revealed by the Agence France-Presse – between his son, Mohamed Reza, the Shiite populist leader Moqtada Al-Sadr, the prime minister, Adel Abdel Mahdi, and the Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, to quell the dispute.

The ascendancy of ayatollah on the Shiite street is disputed by a youth who rejects any authority

Two days later, Ali Al-Sistani endorsed the UN plan to end the crisis that was presented to Najaf Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, the head of the UN assistance mission in Iraq. This plan calls for reforming the electoral law and the Constitution, fighting corruption and placing militia weapons under state control. Despite the support of the marjaya and the protesters, the UN is not listened to by the political class. "These reforms are impossible to implement under this government: it is part of the problem", said Dhia Al-Asadi, a political adviser to Moqtada Al-Sadr, the first political force in parliament. Only President Barham Salih followed his recommendations in the draft new electoral law, presented this week and immediately emptied of its substance in the Council of Ministers.