Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has called on his followers to join protests set to be held in Baghdad on Friday urging the government to proceed with planned reforms to crackdown on corruption.
“Muqtada al-Sadr has called on the Iraqi people – especially supporters of the Sadrist movement – to take part in Friday demonstrations in Baghdad,” his spokesman Salah al-Obeidi told reporters on Monday.
“Demonstrators should demand an end of sectarianism and the implementation of the comprehensive reform package,” the spokesman continued, adding that protesters should also demand that the official accused of corruption should be brought to justice.
Earlier this month, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced new measures to crackdown on corruption and improve state finances by axing certain government posts, including the positions of vice president and deputy prime minister.
The plans were announced after Iraq’s top Shiite Muslim cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani urged Abadi to do more to rid the government of sectarianism and appoint officials based on their credentials in order to fight corruption.
Sistani had previously warned that the country faces dire consequences including possible "partition" if real reform is not carried out.
Since Iraq’s former autocratic regime of Saddam Hussein was deposed during the US occupation which started in 2003, the country has had three vice presidents, two of whom are Shiites and one Sunni. The country likewise has had three deputy prime ministers - a Shiite, a Sunni and a Kurd.
Under the reforms, the positions of vice presidents Nouri al-Maliki, Osama al-Nujaifi and Iyad Allawi - who all backed the reforms - will be abolished.
Deputy prime ministers Baha Araji, Saleh al-Mutlaq and Roj Nuri Shaways will also be dismissed. Araji, who already faces an anti-corruption investigation but he says he will fight the case, announced his resignation shortly after al-Abadi made a statement.
Al-Abadi also called for the relaunching of corruption probes and the reduction of officials' bodyguards, with surplus funds being redirected to the interior and defence ministers.
The reforms were approved by the Council of Ministers and parliament shortly after they were announced.