May 11, 2018

Sayyid Ali Hosseini Sistani (born1930 in Mashhad), an Iranian Shia marja (source of emulation) in Iraq and the head of many hawzahs (seminaries) in Najaf, has said that he will not support any particular candidate in the Iraqi Parliamentary elections scheduled to take place on May 12.

Iraqis will vote for 329 members of the Council of Representatives who will, in turn, elect the Iraqi President and Prime Minister. To form a majority, 165 seats are needed.

“The marja will not support any particular candidate, political faction, tribal or ethnic group in the elections,” Ayatollah Sistani’s representative Sheikh Abdul Mahdi al-Karbalai and Karbala’s Friday Prayer leader said on September 5, 2017.

Meanwhile, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) have been spending a lot of money and effort to promote Vice President Nouri al-Maliki, who, if elected, will undoubtedly protect Tehran’s interests in Iraq. Ayatollah Sistani has, in recent years, criticized Tehran’s policies towards Iraq. He has implicitly warned Iraqis against voting for the pro-Iranian candidate al-Maleki.

Mr. Sistani has released a statement, highlighting three points:

۱-Since the overthrow of the former authoritarian regime [Saddam Hussein], the religious authority has consistently promoted political pluralism and free and fair elections in Iraq. The transfer of power can only be achieved at the ballot box and through peaceful means. We believe that the Iraqi people should have the opportunity to decide the future of their country. They have the right to peaceful, dignified and prosperous lives. Therefore, an authoritarian regime or a dictatorship should not be allowed to rule the country.

Sistani called for greater transparency in election rules and guidelines to ensure a just and fair outcome. He asked the voters to focus on social, political and economic issues rather than individual personalities and ethnic and tribal interests. Sistani warned against foreign interference in the elections.

۲-All eligible voters have the right to cast their ballots. However, no one should be forced to vote. People must be allowed to decide the future of their country. The voters should not merely follow their passions or emotions or personal interests or tribal affiliations.

۳-Sistani said he didn’t support any particular candidate. He was adamant that none of the candidates or political factions should be allowed to use religion and the source of emulation as a mean to gain votes.

Iraqi Vice President Ayad Allawi, who is a staunch critic of the Islamic Republic, believes that Tehran’s support for the Shia militias has prevented peace and reconciliation to take root in the country. He has lambasted the regime for meddling in the Iraqi elections.

In March of this year, U.S. Defence Secretary General James Mattis also accused Iran of interfering in the Iraqi elections and destabilizing the region.

Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior adviser in international affairs to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, visited Iraq in winter of this year. Speaking at a news conference, he said: “The Islamic awakening under the leader’s guidance would not allow the liberals, the communists and anyone else whose values contradict those of Iran’s to come to power in Iraq.” Some Iraqi officials reacted negatively to Velayati’s remarks.

Many banners promoting pro-Iranian Iraqi candidates have been put up in the streets of Tehran and Qom – as if the elections were going to be held in Iran. Some reports suggest that the banners were put up by Basijis and Iraqis living in Iran.

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