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The New Arab

Iraq's Sadr bids for renewed protests and new government

Sadr has warned lawmakers to vote or "the people will decide". [Getty]

Date of publication: 20 April, 2016

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Iraq's political gridlock has deepened after influential cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called for renewed protests and for members of his political bloc to pull out of an ongoing parliamentary sit-in.

A powerful Iraqi cleric has called on party allies to leave a sit-in being held in parliament, and to renew street protests after politicians missed his deadline to vote on a cabinet of technocrats proposed by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

Muqtada al-Sadr released a statement on Wednesday, calling on members of his al-Ahrar Bloc to pull out of the week-long parliament sit-in until the vote is held. He also ordered them to keep away from "political bickering".

Sadr also called for renewed protests in Baghdad's central Tahrir Square, where hundreds of Sadr's followers have rallied near the heavily fortified Green Zone, where key government offices are located.

"Peaceful protests must continue under the same intensity and even more in order to pressure the politicians and the lovers of corruption," he said.

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The New Arab's Baghdad correspondent has confirmed that Sadr's politicians walked out of the parliament building and only members of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's party and independents remained inside.

     
      Sadr's followers have rallied near parliment [Getty]

Security services ramped up their presence on Baghdad's streets early on Wednesday to contain protests to Tahrir Square after authorities announced it would be the only location in which demonstrations could take place.

On Tuesday, lawmakers failed to vote on the fate of the parliament's speaker, prolonging the country's simmering political crisis.

Since last week, dozens of lawmakers have held a sit-in inside the parliament, demanding the country's top leadership - including the parliamentary speaker, prime minister and president - step down following a Cabinet reshuffle vote delay.

Last week, opposition factions elected the chamber's eldest lawmaker, Adnan al-Janabi, as an interim speaker, but the move was rejected by the government camp, which argued the sessionin which the vote was held was unconstitutional, as it was held without the current speaker, or indeed a legal quorum of MPs.

After prolonged backroom negotiations, it was agreed the house would first convene and vote on whether or not to remove parliament speaker Salim al-Jabouri. But minutes after the session started on Tuesday afternoon, a disagreement erupted about who should run in his place.

This prompted major political blocs to walk out, lawmaker Hassan Salim said. The session was then adjourned until Thursday, amid calls for politicians to nominate a new speaker.

Also on Tuesday, embattled speaker Juburi announced that parliament sessions attempting to rectify the crisis would be suspended "until further notice".

To press legislators to vote on a new government, Muqtada al-Sadr has warned lawmakers to vote - or "the people will decide".

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