Kurdish presidency supporting Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr-led Baghdad protests

Riot police stand in front of demonstrators during a protest demanding an 
overhaul of the electionsÕ supervision commission ahead of provincial elections
 due in September, in Baghdad,Iraq February 11, 2017

Baghdad: Kurdistan has said recent protests in Baghdad against the electoral commission in Iraq have the “blessings” of the autonomous region’s ruling party, voicing support for Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr who called for the demonstrations.

Kurdish presidency staff chief, Fuad Hussein, said in a statement on Wednesday that Sadr was seeking to “cut the hands” of Iraqi Vice President Nouri al-Maliki, a former prime minister of Iraq who Kurds strongly opposed.

“Inter-Shia disagreements are much bigger than demands to change the supreme electoral commission; they could amount to war,” said Hussein.

Al-Sadr, who had championed massive anti-corruption protests against the government of Nouri al-Maliki in 2014, is now denouncing Iraq’s electoral commission as corrupt and under influence of Maliki, his bitter political rival who s believed to enjoy Iran’s backing. Opponents to the electoral law say it fails to include all of Iraq’s political and social stripes.

Protests turned deadly on Saturday when police fired tear gas and live fire on demonstrators, killing five of them, while a policeman also died, according to security statements.

“Maliki is currently doing whatever he could to return to power, and if Maliki returns, Iraq shall head towards a dark era where Shia-Kurdish disputes would exacerbate,” the Kurdish presidency official said.

“This is not only limited to Maliki, in fact, the Kurdistan Democratic Party, the strongest political player in Kurdistan Region, blesses Sadr’s attempts.”

Late January, Kurdish President Masud Barzani said he would unilaterally declared the long-demanded independence of the region should Maliki return to power.

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