MP in Iraq PM's bloc resigns over “cronyism”

A popular member of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's party who stepped down as an MP told AFP on Saturday that he resigned in a bid to fight pervasive patronage and cronyism in Iraqi politics.

Jaafar al-Sadr's remarks came after days of protests against corruption, poor basic services and high unemployment that left three people dead and more than 100 wounded, the most violent such rallies in Iraq since uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

"Of course, parliament plays a vital role in the life of the nation," Sadr 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 that "this cronyism is corrupting official political life, while average people are increasingly left on their own to deal with their problems."

The 41-year-old ex-MP won the second highest number of votes within Maliki's State of Law coalition in Baghdad province in the elections, after only the premier himself.

His father, Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Baqr al-Sadr, founded Maliki's party in 1957, but was killed in 1980 by now executed dictator Saddam Hussein's regime.

Jaafar, a cousin and brother-in-law of Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, undertook religious study in Baghdad, the Shia shrine city of Najaf and the Iranian clerical capital of Qom before earning a degree in sociology and anthropology in Lebanon.

-AFP/NOW Lebanon