A top Iraqi Shiite cleric has issued a ruling forbidding voting with secular individuals, an apparent statement of support for Iraq's embattled premier who is facing threats of a no-confidence vote.
"It is haram (forbidden by Islam) for any part of Iraq's ruling (authorities) to vote on the side of a secular person," Grand Ayatollah Kadhim al-Hairi said in a written answer to a question from one of his followers about voting with secularists amid the current political crises in Iraq.
The secular, Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc is seeking to convince Iraqi President Jalal Talabani to initiate a vote of no confidence in Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
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Significantly, Hairi, an Iraqi who is based in Iran's holy city of Qom, is the main cleric followed by supporters of Moqtada al-Sadr, the head of a powerful parliamentary bloc who has criticised Maliki as a "dictator" hungry for acclaim and accused him of seeking to postpone or cancel elections.
Sadr, whose bloc is an important part of Maliki's coalition government, has said that his MPs would back a vote of no confidence vote in Maliki if they were needed to secure a majority.
Iraq has been hit by a series of intertwined political crises that began in mid-December with accusations by Iraqiya that Maliki was concentrating power in his hands, and has escalated into calls to unseat him.
The crises have paralysed the country's government, especially parliament, which has passed no significant legislation except for the budget, while other important measures such as a hydrocarbons law regulating the country's oil sector have been delayed.