Iraqi protesters storm parliament for second time in a week | News

Iraqi protesters have again violated the Iraqi parliament in support of influential Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr, days after storming the legislative body and suspending a seat to appoint a new prime minister.

Security forces fired tear gas canisters and hurled sound bombs on Saturday as protesters used ropes to pull down and climb over a number of large concrete barriers around the Green Zone, which shielded government buildings and foreign embassies.

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

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s media office had issued a statement calling on security agents to ensure the security of state institutions.

Al Jazeera’s Mahmoud Abdelwahed said from Baghdad that the protesters are not flinching despite reports of several injuries.

He added that on Wednesday, when a large crowd occupied the parliament building, security forces had let the large crowd into the perimeter relatively unimpeded.

Protesters oppose the candidacy of Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, a former minister and ex-provincial governor, who is being elected to the post of prime minister by the pro-Iran Coordination Framework.

A vote to announce Al-Sudani for the post of prime minister was set to take place on Saturday, but the seat was adjourned following Wednesday’s events.

Abdelwahed said al-Sadr’s supporters had gathered again because they were not confident that parliament would not proceed with the vote. “They say the fact that the session has been suspended does not mean that voting cannot take place behind closed doors,” he said.

Supporters of Iraqi cleric Moqtada Sadr hold a photo of their leader in the country's parliament.
Supporters of Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr hold a photo of their leader in the country’s parliament [Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP]

Al-Sadr’s bloc emerged as the largest parliamentary faction in the October elections, but still failed to secure a majority.

Ten months later, the deadlock over the creation of a new government continues – the longest since the 2003 invasion of the United States restored political order in the oil-rich country.

Dorsa Jabbari of Al Jazeera said people are demanding change. “They don’t want the previous corrupt politicians to stay in power, they don’t want the country to have one.” [interference] by the United States and Iran,” said the occupied parliament.

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

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

Although al-Sadr’s alliance won the most seats in October’s parliamentary elections, bickering political parties failed to secure the two-thirds majority needed to elect a president — an important step before a prime minister can be elected.

After negotiations stalled, al-Sadr withdrew his bloc from parliament and announced that he would end talks on forming a government.

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

Zeidon Alkinani, an analyst at the Arab Center in Washington, told Al Jazeera that “we should not be surprised that al-Sadr’s supporters are able to enter government buildings, unlike the protests that began in 2019.”

Political movements such as the Sadrist movement “have infiltrated the Ministry of Interior and Defense, which means it is very easy for them to bypass security checks,” the analyst said.

The storming of parliament Wednesday came after Al-Sadr-backed political rival, former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, nominated a pro-Iranian politician as Iraq’s new leader.

“Another layer in this crisis is the personal rivalry between al-Maliki – the most influential politician in the coordination framework – and al-Sadr,” Alkinani said.

“This rivalry has been going on since 2006. It is an ideological and military rivalry that affects the daily lives of ordinary Iraqis.”

By convention, the post of prime minister will go to a leader of the Iraqi Shia majority.

Al-Sadr is the son of Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Muhammad-Sadiq al-Sadr, a Shia dignitary who was politically active against former leader Saddam Hussein, whom he paid with his life in 1999.

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