Iraqi parliament accepts PM’s resignation amid protests

By Samya Kullab and Murtada Faraj, Associated Press

Iraq’s parliament has formally accepted the prime minister’s resignation but the path to replacing Adil Abdul-Mahdi is clouded with legal questions and a “black hole in the constitution”.

Meanwhile, anti-Government demonstrations went on in the capital and one protester was shot dead.

A special judicial body has been formed to investigate demonstrator deaths.

Iraq Protests
Anti-Government protesters gather in Baghdad (Khalid Mohammed/AP)

Parliament approved Mr Abdul-Mahdi ‘s resignation without a vote, according to four politicians in attendance.

They acted on the legal opinion of the federal supreme court because existing laws do not provide clear procedures.

“According to the federal court’s interpretation, there is no need to vote,” Sarkwat Shamsedine said during the session.

Fellow politician Mohamed al-Daraji made the reference to a black hole in the law.

Following the approval, Parliament Speaker Mohamed a-Halbousi asked President Barham Salih to nominate a new prime minister.

The constitution requires Parliament’s largest bloc to name a candidate for the premiership within 15 days. The prime minister-designate then has 30 days to form a Government.

Officials and experts warned of a potential political crisis because the question of which coalition constitutes the largest bloc is unresolved.

Mr Abdul-Mahdi’s nomination as prime minister was the product of a provisional alliance between Parliament’s two main blocs — Sairoon, led by cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, and Fatah, which includes leaders associated with the paramilitary Popular Mobilization Units headed by Hadi al-Amiri.

In the May 2018 election, neither coalition won a commanding plurality that would have enabled it to name the premier alone.

To avoid political crisis, Sairoon and Fatah forged a precarious union.

The possibility of Sairoon and Fatah recommitting to an alliance over the selection of the premiership was “the strongest scenario”, Mr Shamsedine said.

Anti-Government protesters and security forces face-off in Rasheed Street (Hadi Mizban/AP)

In Baghdad’s historic Rasheed Street, security forces fired live ammunition to prevent crowds from breaching concrete barriers near the Ahrar bridge that leads to Parliament and other Government buildings.

One protester was killed and 10 wounded, according to security and medical officials.

Hundreds of anti-Government demonstrators, including students and teachers, also took to the streets in the southern oil-rich city of Basra.

They donned black clothes to mourn protesters killed in Najaf and Dhi Qar provinces in recent days.

The investigative body was formed to hear cases from the city of Nasiriyah, which has seen the most fatalities due to live ammunition used by security forces in recent days.

Unlike elsewhere in Iraq, in Basra demonstrators have routinely targeted the country’s economic interests.

Demonstrators staged a sit-in and cut roads to the West Qurna 1 oil field, operated by ExxonMobil.

The field, among the country’s largest, produces over 450,000 barrels of oil per day.

A senior oil ministry official said the protests have not yet affected crude production.

Iraq Protests
Anti-Government protesters peer over a wall security forces use to close Rasheed Street (Khalid Mohammed/AP)

Protesters continued to block roads to the country’ main Gulf commodities port in Umm Qasr. Port officials previously said trade activity had been cut by 50 percent as a result.

At least 400 people have been killed since October 1, when thousands took to the streets in mass protests in Baghdad and the predominantly Shi’ite south.

In Baghdad, protesters gathered in Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the movement, to reiterate calls for a complete overhaul of the sectarian political system.

Hundreds of university students skipped classes to attend.