Unclear Path After Iraq Parliament Accepted PM’s Resignation

A cabinet meeting on Saturday had approved Abdul Mahdi's announcement, which also suggested the resignation of key members of the Iraqi government, including the prime minister's chief of staff.

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Iraqi legislators approved Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s resignation on Sunday during a parliament session held in the capital Baghdad amid weeks of deadly anti-government protests.

An embattled Abdul Mahdi had announced on Friday that he would quit, after 50 demonstrators were killed the previous day by security forces in Baghdad and Iraq‘s mainly Shia southern cities of Nasiriya and Najaf.

The prime minister also faced criticism from Iraq’s top Shia leader, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who condemned the use of lethal force against the protesters and called for a new government.

‘Drop in the ocean’

Abdul Mahdi
Although Abdul Mahdi’s resignation was welcomed by protesters in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, they said they will continue to demonstrate until they see a complete overhaul of the country’s political system.

“The prime minister’s resignation is only a drop in the ocean of our demands,” said Dania, a 20-year-old IT student at Nahrayn Univeristy, who has been attending demonstrations since early October.

“We won’t go back home until the PM’s resignation triggers the parliament to be dissolved and early elections are held so that all the political parties and militias currently in power could be removed,” she explained, adding that the process must begin with a new electoral law.

Driven by anger over corruption, high unemployment and inadequate public services, protesters in Baghdad and several southern cities have been taking to the streets since early October 1, protesting against the country’s ruling class and calling for the overhaul of the political system established after the 2003 US-led invasion, whereby power is apportioned among ethnic and sectarian groups.

According to the Iraqi Human Rights Commission, at least 430 people have been killed and 19,000 injured since the start of the unrest.

Political tug of war

Iraq Protests
Many Iraqis believe that this quota-based system allowed certain individuals and groups over years to enrich themselves and expand their influence, while much of the oil-rich country’s population endured economic hardship.

While the largest political bloc will have the right to decide on Abdul Mahdi’s replacement, Iraqi parliamentarians and experts expect a “political tug of war” to unfold as parliamentary blocs try to forge alliances among each other.

“It is unclear how a new government will be formed,” said Haddad. “Will another consensus government emerge?” he asked. “Or can a group or constellation of political actors form a majority government and an opposition? All this remains to be seen.”

Political analyst Ziad Al-Arrar said that “after the acceptance of the prime minister’s resignation, the Shia political blocs will try to overcome their differences so they can agree on a new prime minister.”

Iraq Protests
Since the protests began, parliament has been deeply divided with Sadr going back and forth on his position to back the protesters, while Fatah, the second largest bloc in parliament, has backed the government.

“Reaching this point will also require that the Kurds and the Sunnis agree to this new name,” he added.

Elections in May 2018 ended without a single bloc winning a majority of seats to select a new prime minister.

To avoid a political crisis, parliament’s two main political blocs – Sairoon, led by Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr, and the Fatah bloc led by Hadi al-Amiri and linked to the Iran-backed Popular Mobilisation Units (PMF) – eventually forged an alliance, nominating Abdul Mahdi as prime minister.

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