ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraqi protesters have rejected an apparent bid by Iran-aligned groups to nominate a politician for the country’s premiership close to two weeks after Adil Abdul Mahdi submitted his resignation amid deadly unrest.
National anti-corruption demonstrations have taken place throughout much of Iraq since the start of October and have seen hundreds killed. Since they began, casualty numbers have reportedly reached over 500 dead and at least 20,000 others injured in clashes between demonstrators and security forces.
As the death count continued to rise, Abdul Mahdi announced he would step down from his post, with the Iraqi Parliament approving the move during an extraordinary session on Dec. 1. This was a short few days after the bloodiest day of protests across the country.
On Friday, reports emerged quoting informed sources that the Iranian-backed al-Fateh and State of Law Coalition alliances had agreed to nominate Muhammed Shia’ al-Sudani to succeed Abdul Mahdi. Sudani claimed to be severing his political affiliations on Friday.
“I announce my resignation from the Islamic Dawa Party…and the State of Law Coalition bloc,” Sudani said in a tweet. He continued, “I am not a candidate for any party,” adding, “I belong to Iraq first.”
The protesters were quick to raise pictures of Sudani, rejecting his possible nomination for the position of prime minister, seeing him as a return to the premiership years of Nouri al-Maliki, who is the leader of the political entities Sudani withdrew from.
Demonstrators have repeatedly demanded that the future premier must not be affiliated with establishment political parties and have held no prior senior official posts.
Supporters of the Iranian-backed Asaib Ahl al-Haq militias organized a march on Saturday in support of Sudani. They were also condemning recent US sanctions on AAH leader Qais al-Khazali, which came amid reports of killings of protesters carried out by members of his group.
Firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is among the fiercest opponents of Sudani taking office and has threatened further escalation should it come to pass.
On Friday, Salih Muhammed al-Iraqi, a senior leader in Sadr’s political movement, wrote “Farewell” in a seemingly ominous social media post on his official page – which hundreds of thousands of people follow – after the news.
Al-Iraqi is a close figure to Sadr, and his words carry massive weight among Sadr supporters and protesters, despite his seemingly obscure character.
While social media users interpreted the politician’s message in different ways, sources close to the Sadrist Movement told Kurdistan 24 that his statement is closely related to a possible Sudani nomination.
Iraqi President Barham Salih could officially call on Sudani to form a new cabinet on Sunday, a move that would potentially lead to further instability in an already tumultuous period in the country.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany