Key political factions accused the premier of moving towards a dictatorship with the arrest of Iraq’s electoral commission chief, a charge the prime minister denied on Saturday. Faraj al-Haidari, head of the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC), was detained on Thursday for alleged corruption along with another of the body’s members, Karim al-Tamimi. Anti-U.S. Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr accused Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki of being behind the arrests to obstruct the electoral process, joining other key Iraqi political actors who have made the same charge. “The one who ordered the arrest is, to be precise, brother Nuri al-Maliki,” Sadr said in a statement issued by his office in Najaf.
“Maybe the arrest is to the benefit of the brother prime minister, because in my opinion, he is working on postponing or cancelling the elections,” said Sadr, whose movement has 14 MPs in parliament.
Haidari “was arrested while there are other people more important than him who are walking (free) and controlling peoples’ destinies,” said the influential Shiite cleric. “The arrest of Haidari should be under the law and not under the power of dictatorship,” he said. Sadr’s statement further ratchets up political tension, after the presidency of the autonomous Kurdistan region and a leading MP from the Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc made similar accusations on Friday.