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Protesters reject Iraqi PM candidate backed by Iran-linked bloc

Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi resigned last month [Getty]

Date of publication: 26 December, 2019

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Iraqi protesters want an independent candidate to take over the government.

An Iranian-backed bloc in Iraq's parliament proposed on Wednesday the governor of oil-rich southern Basra province as the country's next prime minister, two officials said.

The nomination was promptly rejected by Iraqi protesters who want an independent candidate to take over the government.

The Fatah bloc, which includes leaders associated with the paramilitary Popular Mobilisation Units, supported by Iran, proposed Governor Asaad al-Eidani for premier.

Hours after his nomination, protesters poured into the streets of several southern Iraqi provinces, including Basra and the holy Shia Muslim cities of Karbala and Najaf. The protesters rejected Eidani's nomination, saying they want an independent figure for the post.

In Karbala, shooting could be heard in the city but the cause was not immediately clear, local officials said.

According to the two officials, President Barham Saleh received a memorandum from parliament which stated that the Iran-backed bloc is the largest in the house and therefore has the right to nominate the next premier. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity under regulations.

Read more: Protests bring Iraq's muhasasa system to its knees

Earlier on Wednesday, outgoing higher education minister, Qusay al-Suhail, who had also been rejected by protesters on the streets, withdrew his nomination for prime minister.

Pressure from the demonstrations led Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi to announce his resignation late last month.

That was after Iraq's most powerful Shia Muslim authority, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, withdrew support for Abdul Mahdi's government.

A deadline to name a new prime minister has been missed twice over disagreements on which is the largest bloc in the parliament following last year's elections.

There are currently two main blocs - Sairoon, led by populist Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, and Fatah, headed by Hadi al-Amiri. But the numbers in the blocs have continued to change since last year's elections, with an unknown number of lawmakers leaving some blocs and joining others.

Last Saturday, Iraq's Federal Supreme Court provided guidance in a statement, but stopped short of naming the largest bloc. It said the decision should be based on parliament's first session after taking office last year. But the court also said it would accept if two or more lists had merged to become the largest bloc.

The same day, President Saleh sent the court's response to parliament, asking the legislature to say which is the largest bloc.

Meanwhile, in the southern city of Diwaniyah, an activist who was wounded last week in a bomb attack died of his wounds late Tuesday. Following the news of his death, protesters attacked some offices of Iran-backed political parties in the city.

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