Iraqi protesters storm parliament in Baghdad’s Green Zone | protests news

Iraqi protesters storm parliament in Baghdad's Green Zone |  protests news
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Hundreds of protesters, mostly supporters of Iraqi Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr, broke into the heavily fortified Green Zone to protest a rival bloc’s nomination for prime minister.

Hundreds of Iraqi protesters, most of them supporters of the Iraqi Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadrstormed the parliament building in Baghdad to protest the nomination for prime minister by Iran-backed parties.

No lawmakers were present in parliament as protesters broke into the capital’s green high-security zone, home to government buildings and diplomatic missions, on Wednesday.

Only security guards were in the building and they seemed to let the protesters in with relative ease.

The protesters reject the candidacy of Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, a former minister and ex-provincial governor who is being chosen as prime minister by the pro-Iran Coordination Framework.

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi called on the demonstrators to “withdraw from the Green Zone immediately”.

He warned in a statement that the security forces would “ensure the protection of state institutions and foreign missions and prevent any disturbance of security and order”.

Al-Sadr’s bloc won 73 seats in Iraq Elections in October 2021making it the largest parliamentary group with 329 seats.

But since the vote, talks to form a new government have stalled, and so has al-Sadr ceded from the political process.

Supporters of Iraqi Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr protest against corruption at the Parliament building in Baghdad,
Sadr supporters protest at the parliament building in Baghdad [Ahmed Saad/Reuters]

Demonstrators carried portraits of the Shia leader on Wednesday.

Riot police used to use water cannons to repel protesters tearing down cement blast walls. But many broke through the gates to the area.

The protesters walked down the Green Zone’s main thoroughfare, and dozens gathered outside the doors of the Parliament building.

Riot police gathered at the doors to the main gates. Demonstrators crowded around two entrances to the Green Zone, with some scaling the concrete wall and shouting, “Al-Sudani, get out!”

Al Jazeera’s Mahmoud Abdelwahed reported from Baghdad that the protesters had come from “many cities” across Iraq.

“They want to convey their message that they are against corruption, against corrupt politicians,” he added. “They say the country has suffered from corruption and mismanagement for many years…they say they will continue to protest peacefully here.”

Supporters of Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr protest against corruption at Baghdad's parliament building
Supporters of Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr protest against corruption at the parliament building in Baghdad [Ahmed Saad/Reuters]

Al-Sudani was chosen by the rule of law leader and former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Before al-Sudani can face parliament to be formally installed as prime minister-designate, the parties must first elect a president.

Al-Sadr ended government-forming talks after he was unable to attract enough MPs to secure the majority needed to elect Iraq’s next president.

By replacing his lawmakers, the Framework leader spurred the formation of the next government. Many fear this will also open the door to street protests organized by al-Sadr’s large constituency and instability.

“Dangerous game”

Yerevan Saeed of the Gulf Arab Institute told Al Jazeera that al-Sadr wanted to show his rivals that he was still “politically relevant” through the protests.

“Of course it’s a very dangerous game. It could plunge the country into an internal Shia civil war,” he said from Washington.

2016, Al-Sadr supporters stormed the Parliament in a similar way. They staged a sit-in calling for political reforms after then-Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi attempted to replace pro-party ministers with technocrats in an anti-corruption campaign.

Political turmoil has left Iraq without a budget for 2022, holding back spending on much-needed infrastructure projects and economic reforms.

Iraqis say the situation is exacerbating the lack of services and jobs, even though Baghdad is enjoying record oil revenues thanks to high crude prices and hasn’t seen any major wars since the defeat of Islamic State five years ago.

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