INTERNATIONAL

Iraq’s PM set to resign after violent protests

Adel Abdel MahdiALAIN JOCARD

Adel Abdel MahdiALAIN JOCARD  

Adel Abdel Mahdi’s announcement comes after top cleric called on Parliament to replace the Cabinet

Iraq’s embattled premier announced on Friday he will resign in keeping with the wishes of the country’s top Shiite cleric, after nearly two months of anti-government protests that have cost more than 400 lives.

Adel Abdel Mahdi’s written statement was greeted with cheers and blaring music across Baghdad’s iconic Tahrir (Liberation) Square, where crowds have amassed since early October against a ruling class deemed corrupt and inefficient.

“I will submit to the esteemed Parliament a formal letter requesting my resignation from the premiership,” Mr. Abdel Mahdi wrote, just hours after Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani called in his weekly sermon on Parliament to replace the Cabinet.

The sermon set off an avalanche of statements from political figures in support of a no-confidence vote on the government, before the Prime Minister’s announcement.

Celebrations erupt

Celebrations broke out in Tahrir, where young protesters dropped the stones they were preparing to throw at riot police and began dancing, an AFP photographer said.

“It’s our first victory, and we’re hoping for many more,” shouted one demonstrator as the three-wheeled tuk-tuk vehicles used to ferry casualties pumped patriotic music into the square.

“It’s also a victory for the martyrs who fell,” he said.

The grassroots movement is the largest Iraq has seen in decades but also the deadliest, with more than 400 people dead and 15,000 wounded in the capital and Shiite-majority south, according to an AFP tally.

For weeks, Mr. Sistani had called for restraint in dealing with demonstrators and urged political parties to get “serious” about reform, but he ramped up demands on Friday.

“The Parliament, from which this current government is drawn, is asked to reconsider its choice in this regard,” he said in Friday’s sermon delivered by a representative.

Within minutes, MP and former premier Haider al-Abadi called on lawmakers to convene on Saturday a “special session for a vote of no-confidence and to form a new independent government”.

The bloodshed resumed on Friday, with two protesters shot dead in the flashpoint city of Nasiriyah and another killed in the shrine city of Najaf.

The unrest in Iraq’s south was unleashed after protesters stormed the Iranian consulate in Najaf late on Wednesday, accusing the neighbouring country of propping up Iraq’s government. Tehran demanded Iraq take decisive action against the protesters, saying it was “disgusted” by the developments.

Recommended for you