Iraqis Protest As Political Deadlock Deepens

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Protesters have taken to the streets in Baghdad to demand a new government, after the Iraqi parliament cancelled its third session in a week to discuss political reforms. Saturday’s session was scrapped because “parliament couldn’t be secured” by security forces, said a statement from the office of the speaker, Salim al-Jabouri, whose position is under threat as some legislators are seeking to replace him.

The political crisis centres around divisions over a plan by Haider al-Abadi, the prime minister, to bring technocrats into cabinet in a bid to check corruption. On March 31, Abadi presented a list of independent professionals who he hoped could free ministries from the grip of dominant political groups. But under pressure from leading politicians, he drafted a second list this week based on party links.

The modified list, which Abadi had planned to present for a vote, prompted a sit-in by MPs who say it will allow corruption to continue to flourish. Al Jazeera’s Jane Arraf, reporting from Baghdad, said if the reforms are actually put in place, it will be the most significant development in Iraqi politics since 2003. “The political system created after Saddam Hussein was toppled distributed power among Shia, Sunni and Kurdish political blocs. It has created a government that many Iraqis feel serves politicians but not the people,” she said.

The dissenting MPs, who accuse the speaker, Jabouri, of blocking reforms, said they would meet on Monday to elect a new assembly leader. The protesters include followers of influential Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, Saturday issued a statement asking all the ministers to immediately resign, and even Abadi’s Dawa party.

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