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Iraqi justice says it has no power to dissolve parliament

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BAGHDAD — Iraq’s top judiciary said on Sunday it lacks the power to dissolve the country’s parliament, days after an influential Shiite cleric gave it a week to dissolve the legislature so that new elections can take place.

The Supreme Judicial Council’s decision is likely to heighten tensions between supporters of the cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and members of Iran-backed groups as Iraq sinks deeper into its political stalemate. now in its 10th month. The standoff is the country’s longest since a US-led invasion in 2003 reset the political order.

The Supreme Judicial Council said in a statement after a meeting on Sunday that the country’s political groups should not involve the judiciary in their “political rivalries and competitions”.

Al-Sadr, whose supporters stormed parliament in Baghdad earlier this month and have since staged a sit-in outside the building, tweeted on Wednesday that the judiciary had a week to dissolve the legislature. Al-Sadr has already called for the dissolution of parliament and the holding of early elections, but this time he has set a deadline.

Al-Sadr’s political bloc won the most seats in parliament but failed to form a majority government that excluded its Iran-aligned rivals. He called on his supporters on Saturday night to be ready to stage massive protests across Iraq, raising fears of tensions. He did not set a date for the planned protests.

“The Superior Council of the Judiciary does not have the power to dissolve Parliament,” the statement said, adding that its main job is to deal with legal matters and that it cannot “interfere in the work of the authorities. legislative or executive”.

Even before Sunday’s judicial meeting, he said he had no constitutional right to dissolve parliament and that only lawmakers could vote to dissolve the legislature. Given that parliament has missed the constitutional deadline to form a new government after the October elections, what will happen next is unclear.

Al-Sadr’s political rivals in the Coordinating Framework, an alliance of Iran-backed parties, said earlier the parliament should meet to dissolve. On Friday, supporters of the group demonstrated in Baghdad to protest the occupation of the legislature by al-Sadr supporters.

Earlier this month, thousands of al-Sadr supporters stormed the heavily fortified Green Zone, which houses Iraq’s parliament, government buildings and foreign embassies. They invaded and occupied the parliament, after which all sessions of the assembly were canceled until further notice. The takeover also effectively halted efforts by the coordination framework to try to form the next government after al-Sadr’s failure.

During their takeover of parliament, al-Sadr’s supporters failed to invade the nearby Supreme Judicial Council building – an act many would consider a coup as the judiciary is the highest judicial authority of the country.