Iraq elections threatened by Shiite feuds

June 23, 2008 at 1:38 PM

BAGHDAD, June 23 (UPI) -- Iraq's provincial elections may be threatened by rivalries between Shiite groups whose differences affect the country's balance of power.

Shiites generally divide into groups aligned with the United States or those supporting cleric Moqtada Sadr's anti-U.S. movement. Sadr's political support has weakened since the spring crackdown of fellow Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on his Mehdi Army militia. Yet the Sadrists still enjoy grass-roots support in the rural, southern part of Iraq, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

Sadr's followers recently announced that the party would support independents and candidates from other parties for the provincial elections in reaction to a government proposal banning political parties that have militias from participating in the elections.

Observers suggest that there will be more efforts to block the October provincial elections.

"For the people in power, the provincial elections will likely loosen their grip," a U.S. Embassy official told the Journal. "So there's a tough road ahead to get to the provincial elections."

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