Middle East

At Baghdad rally, Iraq cleric threatens to boycott elections

  • Iraqi riot police close a bridge leading to the heavily guarded Green Zone during a demonstration of supporters of Iraq's influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr against corruption in Tahrir Square in Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, March 24, 2017. Al-Sadr has threatened to boycott the upcoming provincial elections, urging instead followers to join a "reform revolution." (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

    Iraqi riot police close a bridge leading to the heavily guarded Green Zone during a demonstration of supporters of Iraq's influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr against corruption in Tahrir Square in Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, March 24, 2017. Al-Sadr has threatened to boycott the upcoming provincial elections, urging instead followers to join a "reform revolution." (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)  (The Associated Press)

  • Iraq's Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, center, speaks to his followers demonstrating at Tahrir Square in demanding government reform in Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, March 24, 2017.  Influential Shiite cleric al-Sadr has threatened to boycott the upcoming provincial elections, urging instead followers to join a "reform revolution."  Al-Sadr spoke to thousands at an anti-government protest on Friday in Baghdad, calling for continued peaceful rallies.(AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

    Iraq's Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, center, speaks to his followers demonstrating at Tahrir Square in demanding government reform in Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, March 24, 2017. Influential Shiite cleric al-Sadr has threatened to boycott the upcoming provincial elections, urging instead followers to join a "reform revolution." Al-Sadr spoke to thousands at an anti-government protest on Friday in Baghdad, calling for continued peaceful rallies.(AP Photo/Karim Kadim)  (The Associated Press)

  • Followers of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr chant slogans demanding the government's reform during a demonstration in Tahrir Square, Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, March 24, 2017. Iraq's influential Shiite cleric has threatened to boycott the upcoming provincial elections, urging instead followers to join a "reform revolution." (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

    Followers of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr chant slogans demanding the government's reform during a demonstration in Tahrir Square, Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, March 24, 2017. Iraq's influential Shiite cleric has threatened to boycott the upcoming provincial elections, urging instead followers to join a "reform revolution." (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)  (The Associated Press)

Iraq's influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has threatened to boycott the upcoming provincial elections, urging instead followers to join a "reform revolution."

Al-Sadr spoke to thousands at an anti-government protest on Friday in Baghdad, calling for continued peaceful rallies.

He says Iraqis who love their country and hate corruption, regardless of ideology, support the "reform revolution." The remarks reflect continued power struggles in Baghdad even Iraqi forces battle the Islamic State group in Mosul.

Al-Sadr first took up the mantle of reform over a year ago, when escalating protests occasionally turned violent, breaching Baghdad's highly fortified Green Zone, home to the government and many foreign embassies.

Iraq is to hold local elections later this year — the first elections since IS overran nearly a third of the country in 2014.