No lawmakers were present for the raucous protest, which came amid stalled efforts to form a new government
A large crowd of demonstrators stormed into Iraq’s parliament building, demonstrating against government corruption and a nominated prime minister candidate some 10 months after the country’s last federal election.
Protesters were filmed as they marched into parliament on Wednesday afternoon, many carrying Iraqi flags and portraits of popular Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who has walked away from politics but remains influential . The group was largely made up of young men and numbered in the hundreds, according to Al Jazeera and other regional media.
Reporting from the Iraqi capital, Al Jazeera’s Mahmoud Abdelwahed noted that the protesters had come from “many cities,” and traveled to Baghdad to protest “corrupt politicians”. Chants and slogans against a recently appointed prime minister candidate, Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, also dominated the event. A former governor and minister, al-Sudani was recently chosen to lead a political alliance known as the Coordination Framework, made up of parties more closely aligned with Iran.
Al-Sadr’s faction, which won much of Iraq’s 329 parliamentary seats following the last federal elections in October, has long opposed foreign influence in the country, including from the Iran and the United States.
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No MPs were in the building when protesters stormed into Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, and although local media suggested protesters were met by riot police and water cannons earlier during the day, they would have encountered little resistance as they approached parliament.
Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi – who has remained in power despite delayed attempts to form a new coalition since the last election – has demanded that protesters “withdraw immediately” of the area, warning that the security forces would defend “state institutions and foreign missions” and “to prevent any breach of security and order.”
Hours after the protest kicked off, al-Sadr himself took to Twitter to urge his followers to “Return safe and sound to your homes”, saying that their message had been received by the government. Soon after, protesters began to leave the building, some escorted by security forces, while others were seen chanting and chanting in the streets as they marched out of the green zone.
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