By Ali al-Shouk, Shaalan Ahmed
BAGHDAD, Jan. 28 (Xinhuanet) -- Thousands of followers of an anti-American Iraqi Shiite cleric showed apathy two days ahead of the landmark elections after he announced to boycott the polls.
While some were enthusiastic about the voting, many citizens in Sadr City in eastern suburb of Baghdad said they would not vote on Sunday since their young religious leader Muqtada al-Sadr is not among the candidates.
Sadr had refused to take part in the elections, saying he would reject any political role under virtual occupation. But the outspoken cleric did not call on his followers to follow suit, leaving themselves to decide what to do.
"We would rather need fuel, bread and security now than elections," said Ali Hussein, a 19-year-old unemployed.
"Sadr let us to decide whether to participate in or boycott the elections, but personally I would follow his example and would not vote unless he thinks otherwise," he added.
Campaign posters were put up everywhere on the way to and outside the Sadr City, a sprawling slum populated by over one million Shiite Muslims, but the election atmosphere appeared fadingin the city center.
"How could I vote and who should I elect when the American soldiers can detain me for hours in the street without a reason?" said Hayder Abdul Ameer, a resident living in central Sadr City.
"How could I take part in the elections when our brothers in Fallujah are living in the wilderness and depending on aid? How canI go to polling stations when there is no water, electricity or fuel? How can I vote when I do not know the candidates?" he asked.
Sadr City used to be a major stronghold of Sadr and his Mehdi Army, a disarmed militia and once a rigid enemy of the US-led forces.
An aide to Sadr said on television on Thursday that they would boycott the voting unless the authority released members of the defunct militia detained during the standoff.
Meanwhile, some residents said they would heed the call by the government to cast ballots on Sunday to elect a 275-member transitional parliament.
"A few days ago I took part in an introductory symposium on the elections, and I realized that I'm free to choose whoever meets my need," said 28-year-old Waleed Saed, a shop owner in the city.
"I will vote for the list of Iyad Allawi, the interim Iraqi Prime Minister," he told Xinhua.
Hayder Murtadha, 22, said he would vote for the list that was blessed by the Shiite religious leader Ali al-Sistani, because "it includes many figures that deserve our respect."
"I think they are qualified to lead the country into stability,"he said, referring to the Iraqi United Alliance led by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, head of the biggest Shiite party, the Supreme Council forIslamic Revolution in Iraq.
However, many political observers noted that the Shiite leaders'failure to convince Sadr to join them may lead to a wide denial of the results of the elections. Enditem