IRAQ: Thousands of protesters blocked bridges, roads and building in several cities in southern Iraq on Sunday. The protesters were demanding an independent prime minister as the deadline to choose an interim leader looms.
Baghdad is set to announce a provisional prime minister at midnight on Sunday following the resignation last month of Adil Abdul-Mahdi.
Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s resigned Friday. President Barham Salih and parliament have since missed several deadlines to appoint a new prime minister. Mahdi and his government had agreed to stay on in a caretaker role until a new prime minister is approved.
But Mahdi’s resignation failed to satisfy anti-government protesters who have said it is not enough for a new prime minister to take over — they are demanding changes to the entire political system, which they call corrupt, inept, and say it does little to help impoverished Iraqis despite the nation’s oil wealth.
Protesters decried the likely pick for the new interim prime minister, former higher education minister Qusay al-Suhail, who is opposed by critics for his ties to Iran. Demonstrators categorically reject his candidacy along with any other potential contenders who have been part of the government since 2003.
The protest movement has lost momentum in recent weeks as it has been hit by intimidation, including assassinations perpetrated by militias, according to the UN.
Around 460 people have been killed since the protests began nearly three months ago, and some 25,000 have been wounded.
The Federal Supreme Court provided guidance in a statement Saturday, 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 in that session.
Two Iraqi officials said President Barham Saleh sent the court’s response to parliament, asking the legislature to say which is the largest bloc. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in l ine with regulations.
There are currently two main blocs in Iraq’s parliament: Sairoon, led by populist Shia cleric Moqtada al Sadr, and Fatah, which includes leaders associated with the paramilitary Popular Mobilization Units, headed by Hadi al Amiri.