Bowing to the country’s top cleric and relentless pressure from protesters demanding the fall of his government and an end to rampant corruption, Iraq’s prime minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, has announced his resignation.
It was greeted with both jeers and relief on the country’s unsettled streets, which were this week convulsed by a deadly crackdown by security forces that killed nearly 50 people and edged Iraq closer to a widespread collapse in security.
Abdul Mahdi’s resignation, announced on Friday, is due to be discussed at a parliamentary session on Sunday convened to discuss the crisis.
It follows a six-week popular uprising aimed at the heart of Iraq’s establishment, which many across the centre and south of the country say long ago ceased to serve citizens and instead used oil revenues to enrich themselves.
In office for just over a year, the veteran politician had vowed to stay on in the face of a lethal Iranian-backed pushback against the uprising, which has led to almost 400 deaths since it broke out on 1 October.
However, an unusually strident demand from Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani that Iraq’s legislature consider Abdul Mahdi’s position appeared to cut further room for manoeuvre.
Sistani, who weighs in on politics only in times of crisis and wields huge influence over public opinion, warned on Friday against an explosion of civil strife and tyranny.
He urged government forces to stop killing protesters and told demonstrators to reject all violence.
The intensity of the protests had taken on a revolutionary zeal that the country’s well-armed military was struggling to contain even as it deployed overwhelming force against unarmed demonstrators. (Source: The Guardian)