(CNN)One of Iraq’s leading Shiite clerics and powerful politicians has called on other parties to back him in removing Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi after weeks of protests.
Muqtada al-Sadr, who leads the largest political block in parliament, invited Iraq’s second largest party on Tuesday to cooperate with him in “immediately” holding a vote of no confidence in Mahdi. In a letter addressed to the prime minister, al-Sadr said Tuesday that “I thought asking you to call for early elections will preserve your dignity. But, if you refuse, I ask Mr. Hadi Al-Amiri to cooperate in the withdrawal of confidence from you immediately, to work together in changing the Electoral Commission and its law, and agree on comprehensive reforms, including the provisions of the constitution to be put to the vote and in the absence of the Parliament vote, then the people will choose.”Al-Amiri, who is the leader of the Iran-backed Badr Organization, accepted al-Sadr’s invitation on Tuesday, saying “we will work together to achieve the interests of the Iraqi people and save the country as required by the public interest.”Earlier this week, al-Sadr had called on Mahdi to come to parliament and announce “early elections under the supervision of the United Nations,” which the prime minister refused, citing constitutional and operational challenges. Read MoreDozens of people have been killed since Friday in the violent protests that have been gripping parts of Iraq for a month now, sparked by longstanding complaints over unemployment, government corruption, and a lack of basic services.Last week, hundreds of protesters gathered in Tahrir Square, in central Baghdad, for anti-government protests. Some attempted to enter the Green Zone by removing concrete walls placed by security forces on the bridge leading into the fortified area where the Iraqi Parliament and several Western embassies are situated, including the US embassy.The Green Zone, an area carved out of central Baghdad by U.S.-led forces after their invasion of Iraq in 2003, is seen by many Iraqis as a virtual city within a city where privileged residents enjoy more security and better public services than elsewhere in Baghdad.Earlier this month, Iraqi government forces killed more than 100 protesters and wounded more than 5,000 people during a six-day period of protests.Iraqi President Barham Salih in an October 7 televised speech condemned using lethal force against protesters in Baghdad and ordered the opening of a “a judicial investigation” into the deaths.”Targeting peaceful demonstrators and security forces by live bullets, and targeting the media and journalists is unacceptable in Iraq that we have embraced and pledged to make it a democracy in which the rights and freedoms are respected,” Salih said.