Posted by: becketfund | January 20, 2009

Iraq: Top Shiite Cleric Mandates Voter Participation

BAGHDAD – Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq’s most powerful Shiite Muslim cleric, urged Iraqis to vote in provincial elections this month, the first since 2005, the Washington Post reported on January 20. The cleric’s words carry the force of law amongst devout Shiites. A statement released from Sistani’s office stated that “His eminence urges all residents, men and women, to participate in the coming elections, and stresses not to boycott it despite not being totally satisfied with the previous electoral experience,” and it added that Sistani “stands at an equal distance from all candidates.” The use of religious symbols or sites is banned in the campaign for the Jan. 31 vote, but everyone from the Communist Party to the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, a powerful Shiite party, has resorted to Shiite imagery. One Supreme Council banner in Baghdad declared that a person should vote for its list of candidates as the candidate promoted on the banner is the “son of the marjaiya,” which is a reference to the authority of Sistani and his most senior colleagues.

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