Iraqi PM formally submits resignation amid more violence

By Samya Kullab and Murtada Faraj | Associated
Press

BAGHDAD — Three anti-government protesters were shot dead and
at least 58 others wounded in Baghdad and southern Iraq on
Saturday, security and medical officials said, as Prime Minister
Adel Abdul-Mahdi formally submitted his resignation to
parliament.

Lawmakers were expected to either vote or accept outright
Abdul-Mahdi’s resignation letter in a parliamentary session
Sunday, two members of parliament said.

The prime minister announced Friday he would hand parliament his
resignation amid mounting pressure from mass anti-government
protests, a day after more than 40 demonstrators were killed by
security forces in Baghdad and southern Iraq. The announcement also
came after Iraq’s top Shiite cleric withdrew his support for the
government in a weekly sermon.

The formal resignation came after an emergency Cabinet session
earlier in which ministers approved the document and the
resignation of key staffers, including Abdul-Mahdi’s chief of
staff.

In a pre-recorded speech, Abdul-Mahdi addressed Iraqis, saying
that following parliament’s recognition of his stepping down, the
Cabinet would be demoted to caretaker status, unable to pass new
laws and make key decisions.

Existing laws do not provide clear procedures for members of
parliament to recognize Abdul-Mahdi’s resignation, Iraqi
officials and experts said. Cabinet bylaws allow the prime minister
to tender his resignation to the president, but there is no
specific law that dictates the course of action should this be
tasked to parliament.

“There is a black hole in the constitution, it says nothing
about resignation,” said lawmaker Mohamed al-Daraji.

There are two main laws that could direct parliament’s course
of action, he added: Either they vote Abdul-Mahdi out in a vote of
no-confidence, per Article 61 of the constitution, or resort to
Article 81 reserved for times of crisis when there is a vacancy in
the premiership, shifting those duties temporarily to the
president.

“My understanding is this will be taken care of per Article
61,” he said.

A vote of no confidence would demote Abdul-Mahdi’s Cabinet
into caretaker status for a period of 30 days, in which
parliament’s largest political bloc would have to propose a new
candidate.

This is where the real problem comes in, experts and officials
said.

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.

“Now we are back to the question of who is the largest bloc
that can name the next prime minister,” said one official close
to the State of Law party, led by former Prime Minister Nouri
al-Maliki. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line
with regulations. “If they don’t come to an agreement before
the 30-day deadline, then we might have to go to the supreme
court.”

Officials traded theories as to why Abdul-Mahdi chose to tender
his resignation through parliament, with some speculating it was to
buy more time or avoid the risk of a vacuum should the post remain
empty.

Abdul-Mahdi had alluded to the challenges faced by political
parties to find consensus candidates, saying in earlier statements
he would step down once an alternative candidate was found.

In his speech, addressing these speculations, Abdul-Mahdi said
he was acting on the advice of Iraq’s chief Supreme Court
judge.

“The perspective I received from the chief of the federal
supreme court is that the resignation should be submitted to those
who voted the government in,” he said.

Abdul-Mahdi listed his government’s accomplishments, saying it
had come to power during difficult times. “Not many people were
optimistic that this government would move forward,” he said.

The government, he said, had managed to push through important
job-creating projects, improve electricity generation and
strengthen ties with neighboring countries.

“But unfortunately, these events took place,” he said,
referring to the mass protest movement that engulfed Iraq on Oct.
1. “We need to be fair to our people and listen to them, where we
made mistakes, where we did not make up for the mistakes of
previous governments.”

At least 400 people have died since the leaderless uprising
shook Iraq with thousands of Iraqis taking to the streets in
Baghdad and the predominantly Shiite southern Iraq decrying
corruption, poor services, lack of jobs and calling for an end to
the post-2003 political system.

Security forces have used live fire, tear gas and sound bombs to
disperse crowds leading to heavy casualties.

Three protesters were killed and 24 wounded in the holy city of
Najaf in southern Iraq on Saturday as security forces used live
rounds to disperse them from a key mosque, security and hospital
officials said.

In Baghdad, at least 11 protesters were wounded near the
strategic Ahrar Bridge when security forces fired live ammunition
and tear gas to prevent demonstrators from removing barricades. The
protesters are occupying part of three strategic bridges — Ahrar,
Sinak and Jumhuriya — in a stand-off with security forces. All
three lead to the heavily fortified Green Zone, the seat of
Iraq’s government.

In the southern city of Nasiriyah, security forces used live
fire and tear gas to repel protesters on two main bridges, the
Zaitoun and the Nasr, which lead to the city center. Heavy fighting
has taken place in Nasiriyah in recent days, with at least 31
protesters killed.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with
regulations.

Abdul-Mahdi referred to the rising death toll by security forces
in his speech.

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“We did our best to stop the bloodshed, and at the time we made
brave decisions to stop using live ammunition, but unfortunately
when clashes happen there will be consequences,” he said.
Source: FS – All – Interesting – News 2
Iraqi PM formally submits resignation amid more violence