Asharq Al-awsat English https://aawsat.com/english Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper http://feedly.com/icon.svg

Iraqi PM Formally Submits Resignation amid More Violence

Iraqi PM Formally Submits Resignation amid More Violence

Saturday, 30 November, 2019 - 09:45
The burning vehicle of Iraqi security forces is seen after clashes with protesters during ongoing anti-government protests, in Nassiriya, Iraq November 29, 2019. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Three anti-government protesters were shot dead and at least 58 wounded in Baghdad and southern Iraq on Saturday, security and medical officials said, as Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi formally submitted his resignation to parliament.

Lawmakers were expected to either vote or accept outright Abdul Mahdi’s resignation letter in a parliamentary session Sunday, two members of parliament said, according to The Associated Press.

The prime minister announced Thursday he would hand parliament his resignation on Friday amid mounting pressure from mass anti-government protests, a day after more than 40 demonstrators were killed by security forces in Baghdad and southern Iraq. The announcement also came after Iraq’s top Shiite cleric withdrew his support for the government in a weekly sermon.

The formal resignation came after an emergency Cabinet session earlier in which ministers approved the document and the resignation of key staffers, including Abdul Mahdi’s chief of staff.

In a pre-recorded speech, Abdul Mahdi addressed Iraqis, saying that following parliament’s recognition of his stepping down, the cabinet would be demoted to caretaker status, unable to pass new laws and make key decisions.

He listed his government’s accomplishments, saying it had come to power during difficult times. “Not many people were optimistic that this government would move forward,” he said.

He said the government had managed to push through important job-creating projects and improve electricity generation.

“But unfortunately, these events took place,” he said, referring to the mass protest movement that engulfed Iraq on October 1. “We need to be fair to our people and listen to them.”

Weeks of political wrangling are expected before a successor to Abdul Mahdi is picked and a new government formed.

However, the premier’s move to quit will not satisfy protesters, who are demanding the overhaul of a political system that they say is corrupt and keeping them in poverty and without opportunity.

Many Iraqis fear violence will continue to escalate as angry families mourn dead relatives and the government moves slowly to enact very little reform.

At least 400 people have died since the leaderless uprising shook Iraq with thousands of Iraqis taking to the streets in Baghdad and the predominantly Shiite southern Iraq decrying corruption, poor services, lack of jobs and calling for an end to the post-2003 political system.

Security forces have used live fire, tear gas and sound bombs to disperse crowds leading to heavy casualties.

Three protesters were killed and 24 wounded in the city of Najaf in southern Iraq on Saturday as security forces used live rounds to disperse them from a key mosque, security and hospital officials said.

In Baghdad, at least 11 protesters were wounded near the strategic Ahrar Bridge when security forces fired live ammunition and tear gas to prevent demonstrators from removing barricades. The protesters are occupying part of three strategic bridges - Ahrar, Sinak and Jumhuriya - in a stand-off with security forces. All three lead to the heavily fortified Green Zone, the seat of Iraq’s government.

In the southern city of Nasiriyah, security forces used live fire and tear gas to repel protesters on two main bridges, the Zaitoun and the Nasr, which lead to the city center. Heavy fighting has taken place in Nasiriyah in recent days, with at least 31 protesters killed.

Abdul Mahdi referred to the rising death toll by security forces in his speech.

“We did our best to stop the bloodshed, and at the time we made brave decisions to stop using live ammunition, but unfortunately when clashes happen there will be consequences,” he said.

Iraq’s semi-official Human Rights Commission said in a statement on Saturday that those responsible for the killings of protesters must be brought to justice and that it would gather evidence for prosecution.

The statement did not acknowledge the prime minister’s resignation.

The International Committee of the Red Cross urged a halt to rising casualties.

“Firearms and live ammunition must only be used as a last resort,” it said in a statement.

The rising deaths have sparked global criticism, with the United Nations saying the deaths "cannot be tolerated" and the French foreign ministry saying it "strongly condemns the excessive and disproportionate use of force against protesters".

Editor Picks

Multimedia