Sadr supporters in mass protest for political reform

Sadr supporters in mass protest for political reform

Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets of Iraq's capital, Baghdad, in protest at a months-long political crisis and lack of reform.

Supporters of the cleric Moqtada al-Sadr marched towards the Green Zone, where the government is based.

He wants Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to press ahead with a plan to replace ministers appointed on the basis of political affiliation with technocrats.

Powerful parties in parliament have so far refused to approve the reshuffle.

Systemic political patronage has aided corruption in Iraq, depleting the government's resources as it struggles to cope with declining oil revenue and the cost of the war against the terrorist group (IS).


The BBC's Ahmed Maher in Baghdad says this is one of the country's worst political crises since the US-led invasion and downfall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

For the past three weeks, MPs have been unable to agree on a new line-up of non-partisan ministers proposed by the embattled prime minister as a key element of his programme to tackle corruption.

More than 100 MPs have been staging a sit-in in parliament since mid-April to express their frustration at others who have blocked votes on the reshuffle.

They even voted to sack the speaker of parliament, Salim al-Jabouri.

On Tuesday, hundreds of thousands of Mr Sadr's supporters heeded his call to "frighten" MPs from the main political parties, which rely on control of ministries for patronage and funds, and "compel" them to agree to the prime minister's reforms.

"Our participation in the demonstration aims to reject this government for being sectarian," protester Abu Ali al-Zaidi told AFP news agency.

The government "did not bring the country and Iraqis anything but poverty and killing", the taxi driver from the southern province of Maysan added.

Waving Iraqi flags and chanting that politicians "are all thieves", the protesters marched from Tahrir Square towards the Green Zone, where parliament had been expected to convene to hold a vote on Mr Abadi's proposed cabinet line-up.

However, more than a dozen MPs disrupted proceedings, clapping, slamming their hands on desks and chanting slogans like "invalid" and "treachery" for almost half an hour before the session was adjourned, according to Reuters news agency.

A second session was then held in another room in the parliament building, but the protesting MPs were reportedly barred from attending.

Those present approved Mr Abadi's nominees for the ministers of health, labour and water resources, but rejected his candidates for justice and education.

Parliamentary sources told the BBC that Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari also submitted his resignation, but that the prime minister had refused to accept it.

An MP and former national security adviser, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, acknowledged that the political system was "not working" and that "radical change" was necessary. But he told the BBC that Tuesday's protest was "not terribly helpful".

Source : BBC