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Proposed Iraqi law could blunt anti-U.S. cleric's power

  • Story Highlights
  • Proposed law says parties with militias can't take part in Iraqi provincial elections
  • Law could hurt anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's party, which operates Mehdi Army
  • Elections will be held by October 1; intent is to empower Iraqis at grass-roots level

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From Jomana Karadsheh
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A proposed election law could hurt the popular political movement of anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr -- whose Mehdi Army militia followers have been battling U.S. and Iraqi troops in Baghdad's Sadr City.

Radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr addresses supporters last year at a mosque in Kufa, Iraq.

The bill, which was given its first reading Tuesday in Iraq's parliament, would ban parties with militias from taking part in provincial elections. The elections are slated to occur by October 1.

Last week, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said under the proposal sent to parliament that "anyone with an army or an armed force cannot register with the electoral commission to run and this will be legal after a parliamentary vote and this will be done in the next parliament session."

Khalid al-Atiya, the parliament's deputy speaker, said the body hopes to approve the law in the next couple of weeks. Parliament has adjourned until Wednesday.

Provincial elections are seen as an important step in empowering Iraqis at the grass-roots level and creating a political system that includes those who have been alienated from power.

The provincial powers law, which parliament passed in February and the presidency council OK'd in March, set the stage for the elections and set an October 1 deadline. It also stipulated that within 90 days after going into effect, the parliament must pass a provincial elections law.

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Fighting has raged between militants in the Shiite heartland and Iraqi security forces dominated by the Sadrists' rival, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq -- the largest party in the Shiite political coalition called the United Iraqi Alliance.

Much of the recent fighting, which began in March in the southern city of Basra and spread through southern towns to Baghdad, involves the Mehdi Army. The Iraqi government refers to the people it is fighting as "outlaws."

Al-Maliki urged al-Sadr in April to disband the militia or face a ban from the electoral process. The Sadrists have said that such a proposal would be unconstitutional.

All About Muqtada al-SadrNuri al-MalikiIraq

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