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 Iraqi PM resigns

What happened: Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi announced his resignation last Friday following two months of anti-government protests throughout the country.

  • On Sunday, the Iraqi Parliament approved Mahdi’s resignation but it remains unclear who will replace him.
  • The Prime Minister faced weeks of criticism from the security forces’ handling of the anti-government protests that began at the start of October. Four hundred people have been killed by security forces and militias.
  • His position became untenable on Friday after the most powerful religious figure in the country, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, condemned the use of lethal force against the protesters and called for a new government.
  • A cabinet meeting on Saturday approved Mahdi’s resignation, which also suggested the resignation of key members of the Iraqi government, including the prime minister’s chief of staff.

Context: Mahdi’s announcement came a day after more than 40 people were killed in the bloodiest day since the anti-government protests began.

  • Iraqi media reported yesterday that a police officer was sentenced to death for killing protesters in Wasit province, south-east of Baghdad. Another officer was reportedly given a seven-year sentence. The death sentence, if confirmed, would be the first given to an Iraqi officer over the two months of unrest.
  • During the protests Mahdi promised to reshuffle his cabinet and cut the salaries of high-ranking officials, and also announced schemes to reduce youth unemployment. However, the policy proposals were not enough to stop the demonstrations, which intensified and resulted in an escalation of force by security personnel.
  • On Friday 29 November UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “We condemn the excessive use of force by security forces against protestors in Iraq, including the use of live fire in Nasiriya city. The right to peaceful protest must be respected and those responsible for acts of violence held to account. The UK repeats its call for a peaceful, political solution to the unrest in Iraq, with meaningful reforms that respond to protestors’ legitimate demands. I encourage the Government of Iraq to work with the UN on credible electoral reform.”
  • Based on the Iraqi constitution, the resignation of the Prime Minister includes the whole government, which then assumes a caretaker role until the largest bloc in parliament agrees on a new candidate for Prime Minister.

Looking ahead: The current Parliament is made up of rival political blocs, none of which hold a majority, and therefore it is unsure if Parliament will be able to agree on a replacement within the 15-day deadline. The leaders of the two largest coalitions, Moqtada al-Sadr of the Sadr Movement and Hadi al-Amiri, who is head of the Badr Organistion, are split over the prime minister’s resignation. If and when a new candidate is found, he will then be granted 30 days to form a government.