Iraqis in the southern province of Basra protest electricity and water shortages on the weekend. Photo: Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Muqtada al-Sadr wants the government to privatize the electricity sector amid deadly protests over electricity shortages.
The government should use “foreign, non-occupying” companies to improve electricity services, even if it goes against electoral gains, the influential cleric said in a statement on Thursday.
Sadr, who emerged as the winner in Iraq’s May parliamentary election, running on an anti-corruption platform, urged the government to “move forward with privatizing electricity, with the condition of handing it over to private Iraqi or foreign companies and the removal of bill collection from the corridors of the corrupt government.”
He called on the people to conserve electricity and pay their bills promptly. He also asked for poor villages and rural communities to be provided with generators.
Protests in the sweltering southern province of Basra have raged for more than a week. On Thursday, protesters threatened
to seize control of the border crossing with Iran, demanding better access to water, electricity, and jobs.
One protester in Basra was killed on Sunday when security forces opened fire.
Sadr urged the demonstrators to remain peaceful. He announced he will send a delegation to visit the protesters and added he is open to leading a “demonstration of a million,” similar to the weekly anti-government protests he led in Baghdad.
Iraq and the Kurdistan Region suffer from chronic electricity shortages.