NAJAF, Iraq - Iraq's top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Husseini al-Sistani has warned that he may call for a boycott of January's general election if MPs adopt a closed voting system, an aide said on Monday.
Iraqi MPs are working on a law that will govern the vote and on Sunday they moved to adopt a system that would list parties contesting the ballot without disclosing the names of individual candidates.
"Ayatollah Ali Husseini al-Sistani supports the open list, and we think the open list is one of the ways to push large numbers of Iraqis to vote in the elections," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity, from his office in the holy shrine city of Najaf.
The supreme leader's opinion is revered by his followers who account for a majority of Iraq's population and Shiites are unlikely to register their ballots if the elections, slated for January 16, do not have his support.
Sistani made his views known on Sunday during talks with Ad Melkert, the United Nations Secretary General's special representative to Iraq.
"Sistani expressed his point of view to the special representative, and if parliament were to continue on the closed list, he might have no big role in pushing Iraqi voters to participate in the elections," the official said.
A closed list was used in Iraq's national elections in 2005, which was boycotted by many due to the presence of US occupation, which was seen as delegitimising the whole election.
However, an open system listing the names of candidates and their parties was used in provincial polls held in January this year.
Those elections were won by candidates backed by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Shiite parties who performed well in the 2005 parliamentary vote experienced big losses under the open list system adopted in the provincial vote.
The US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 is viewed by critics as an 'act of aggression' that violated international law.
Subsequent US occupation policies caused the country to descend into almost total chaos, bordering on civil war.
An estimated 1.3 million Iraqis have been killed in Iraq as a direct result of the invasion, while millions more have fled the country.
Critics argue that the recent stability announced in the country should not excuse the 'crime' of invading Iraq, calling for the prosecution of the war's architects for 'crimes against humanity'