Baghdad’s Tahrir Square broke out in celebration minutes after Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi announced he will submit his resignation to parliament after weeks of deadly anti-government protests.
Friday’s announcement came a day after more than 50 protesters were killed by security forces in Baghdad and Iraq’s mainly-Shia southern cities of Nasiriya and Najaf.
Thursday was described as the “bloodiest day” since the anti-government demonstrations began in early October, bringing the reported death toll to at least 400 people.
The statement by Abdul Mahdi, who took office a little over a year ago, came shortly after Iraq‘s top Shia leader, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, condemned the use of lethal force against protesters and called for a new government.
‘Great first step’
“The premier’s offer to resign is a great first step and we’re extremely elated to receive this news,” Mustafa, 24, said.
“Even if we paid a heavy price to get here, it means that the protesters managed to pressure the government to address our demands. It means our sacrifices were worth it.”
Another protester, 30-year-old Noor, ruled out calling off the protesting, adding that the resignation was “just the first step”.
“But this the happiest we’ve felt in a long time,” she said.
Others, however, stressed that a simple change of leadership would not suffice.
For many, this quota-based system over the years allowed certain individuals and groups to enrich themselves and expand their influence – all the while much of the oil-rich country’s population continued to endure severe economic hardship and poor public services.
What happens next
Iraqi political analyst Ihsan al-Shimmari told Al Jazeera that the parliament is expected to accept Abdul Mahdi’s resignation after several political groups and the top Shia authority called on him to step down.
“The political groups will likely accept his resignation right away and start to negotiate and discuss who they will put in his place,” al-Shimmari said.
“Whether it’s the Marjia [Shia authority] or the biggest political parties and blocs, everyone has made it clear that Abdul Mahdi needs to step down,” he added.
“The protests were about removing a whole system. With the system and political parties still in place, it’s hard to see the protesters satisfied simply by the removal of a prime minister they considered a symptom of a bigger problem.”