Al-Sadr supporters protest in Iraq capital over new PM nomination | News


New show of strength comes three days after the storming of parliament over the candidacy of Mohammed al-Sudani for prime minister.

Iraqi protesters have once again breached concrete barricades leading to Baghdad’s Green Zone in a show of support for influential Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr, days after they stormed parliament and suspended a session to nominate a new prime minister.

Demonstrators on Saturday morning pulled down and climbed over a number of large concrete barriers surrounding the area that cordons off government buildings and foreign embassies, making their way along the highway.

“All the people are with you Sayyid Muqtada,” the protesters chanted, using his title as a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad.

Al Jazeera’s Mahmoud Abdelwahed, reporting from Baghdad, said it was unclear whether security forces would back down and let the protesters enter as they did on Wednesday, when a large crowd occupied the parliament building.

The protesters oppose the candidacy of Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, a former minister and ex-provincial governor, who is the pro-Iran Coordination Framework’s pick for the premier’s post.

Al-Sadr’s bloc emerged from elections in October as the biggest parliamentary faction but still fell far short of a majority.

Ten months on, the deadlock persists over the establishment of a new government – ​​the longest period since the 2003 invasion by the United States reset the political order in the oil-rich country.

Supporters of al-Sadr protest inside the parliament on Wednesday [File: Ahmed Saad/Reuters]

A vote heralding al-Sudani to the post of prime minister was scheduled to take place on Saturday, but the session was suspended after Wednesday’s events.

Abdelwahed said protesters gathered again on Saturday because they did not trust parliament not to go ahead with the vote. “They say that the fact the session has been suspended does not mean that voting cannot go on behind closed doors,” he said.

“We are here for a revolution,” said protester Haydar al-Lami.

“We don’t want the corrupt, we don’t want those who have been in power to return … since 2003 … they have only brought us harm.”

Although al-Sadr’s alliance won the most seats in October’s parliamentary electionsquabbling political parties failed to reach the two-thirds majority needed to pick a president – ​​an important step before a prime minister can be selected.

After the negotiations stalled, al-Sadr withdrew his bloc from parliament and announced he was exiting talks on forming a government.

Mass mobilization is a well-worn strategy of al-Sadr, a mercurial figure who has emerged as a powerful force with a nationalist, anti-Iran agenda.

Wednesday’s storming of parliament came after al-Sadr’s Tehran-backed political rival, former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, nominated a pro-Iran politician to be Iraq’s new leader.

By convention, the post of prime minister goes to a leader from Iraq’s Shia majority.

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