Supporters of Shiite leader al-Sadr storm the government palace

Tear gas and firearms are used

Videos show a jubilant crowd in the grand rooms of the palace One protester said protesters would walk through the office, while others would swim in a swimming pool outside. However, there will be no damage to government property. Security forces tried to disperse the protesters from the palace by firing tear gas. Witnesses said shots were fired later.

Prime Minister Al-Qasimi suspended all cabinet meetings until further notice. He spoke of “dangerous developments” and “serious consequences of ongoing political differences”. He asked al-Sadr to direct the protesters. In Dhi Kar to the south, his supporters stormed a provincial government building. Others set fire to car tires on the road there.

Al-Sadr wanted to break tradition

Iraq has been in a deep political crisis for months. It has become increasingly difficult since the parliamentary elections nearly ten months ago. Al-Sadr’s movement emerged as the clear winner at the time, but failed to secure the crucial two-thirds majority required for a presidential election. A new government can only be formed with the support of the head of state. This created a political stalemate.

Al-Sadr thus gave up trying to reform Iraq’s political system with the help of parliament for the time being. After the fall of the long-term dictator Saddam Hussein, it was customary for representatives of the most important political forces to be represented in the cabinet. Al-Sadr wanted to break with this tradition and form a majority government with MPs from his party, Massoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party, and the Sunni bloc. One of his goals was to reduce the influence of Iran-backed Shia groups.

“pressure from the road”

With “pressure from the streets” and a storm in parliament, the al-Sadr movement ultimately sought to prevent its political rivals around former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, who have close ties to Iran, from forming a government. More recently, religious leaders called for fresh elections. Meanwhile his rivals have put forward their own prime ministerial candidate, whom al-Sadr opposes because of his closeness to al-Maliki.

Muqtada al-Sadr came from a family of distinguished scholars. After the US Army invaded Iraq in 2003, he founded a militia called the “Mahdi Army”. Al-Sadr, meanwhile, lived in Iran.


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