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A Different Sadr Resigns In Protest At "Cronyism"
From Agence France-Presse:
MP in Iraq PM's bloc resigns over 'cronyism'

BAGHDAD — A popular MP and member of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's political bloc who has resigned told AFP on Saturday that he stepped down in protest at pervasive patronage and cronyism in Iraqi politics.

Jaafar al-Sadr's resignation on Thursday came amid a wave of protests across Iraq against corruption, poor basic services and high unemployment that has left three dead and more than 100 wounded.

"Of course parliament plays a vital role in the life of the nation," he said in response to e-mailed questions. "But, in Iraq, this institution has found itself hamstrung by quotas and cronyism."

Sadr, the only son of the founder of Maliki's Islamic Dawa party, added: "This cronyism is corrupting official political life, while average people are increasingly left on their own to deal with their problems."

"I do not wish to overwhelm those who have taken on the heavy responsibility of leading the country, but we must admit that disillusionment and a deep malaise has seized the population," said the 41-year-old.

Country-wide protests this week, from the northern Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah to the southern port city of Basra, have called for the government to combat corruption, and rebuild Iraq's war-battered economy and crumbling infrastructure.

"Everything is wrong with the political process, both in the government and in parliament: there have been for many years no solutions to the country's most pressing problems, no strategy, no vision," said Sadr.

"People are still waiting for even the smallest improvement."

He continued: "The legacy of the former regime, the occupation and the mistakes that came with it, the increasingly aggressive intervention by countries in the region, and terrorism which strikes continuously have all contributed to this impasse."

"But we must have the courage and the honesty to admit that there has also been a major failure of policy since 2003."

Sadr, who won the second highest number of votes in Baghdad province after Maliki in the premier's State of Law coalition in a March legislative poll, said he had no "political objectives" for his post-parliamentary career.

His father, Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Baqr al-Sadr, founded the Islamic Dawa party in 1957 but was killed in 1980 by president Saddam Hussein, who was overthrown in the 2003 US-led invasion.

Jaafar al-Sadr, a cousin and brother-in-law of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, studied religion in Baghdad, the holy Shiite city of Najaf and in Qom, Iran, before earning a degree in sociology and anthropology in Lebanon.

Sadr said that given the fragility of Iraq's democracy, all sides must scrupulously respect the constitution and the law.

"The Iraqi context is not unique: every time a society finds itself divided along ethnic, religious, confessional and tribal lines, it oscillates between two models," Sadr said.

These were "authoritarianism to maintain social cohesion, which is in the process of falling apart in front of our eyes across the Arab world, and a political system based on a contract that establishes the framework and rules of politics."

He said Iraq had escaped chaos but failed to attach itself firmly to a constitutional framework based on laws. "The process of democracy is not irreversible -- never forget that," Sadr cautioned.

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