04/19/2016, 19.24
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From parliament to the streets, Iraq’s political crisis deepens

Some MPs continue to protest demanding the resignation of the parliament’s speaker. President’s mediation fails. After an agitated session, parliament is set to reconvene on Thursday. US Defence secretary makes an unexpected stop in Baghdad. Al Sadr supporters fill Tahrir Square again.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) – Iraq’s political crisis is getting worse. A group of MPs – involved in a sit-in to force out parliamentary speaker Salim al-Juburi, a Sunni – has rejected an attempt at mediation by Iraqi President Fuad Masum, a Kurd.

In Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, near the Green Zone, protesters close to Iraq's powerful Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr continue to oppose reforms by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, demanding the formation of a new, independent, non-sectarian government.

A journalist with Al Iraqiya, a public broadcaster and television network, told AsiaNews that Iraq’s Supreme Court, which has been silent so far, and the President might intervene.

The Office of the President put forward a six-point plan to solve the parliamentary crisis, worked out overnight with rebel MPs, as indicated by Khalid Shwani, a spokesperson for Iraqi President Fuad Masum.

The plan called for all MPS to meet today, at 2 pm (local time) to end the crisis. During the meeting, parliamentary speaker al Juburi would be able to express himself on the crisis. Should MPs continue to insist on his resignation after his speech, the issue could be discussed further.

Last week, lawmakers had voted to remove the parliamentary speaker during a session that had degenerated into a massive brawl with water bottles thrown.

Amid statements and counterstatements, the speaker’s office had initially said that he would attend today’s session. However, at the last minute, al Juburi did not show up, cancelling the session.

MPs close to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi want to dissolve parliament, to end the filibustering of some.

The parliamentary row ended just before 3 pm with Kurdish and Al Ittihad Al Quwa MPs walking out, forcing a stop to today’s session. Parliament is set to resume on Thursday.

For now, Iraq’s clerical leadership in Najaf and Karbala has not yet spoken out waiting for developments. A source told AsiaNews that the top religious leaders (Marjaaiya) in Najaf two days ago refused to meet with a delegation of rebel MPs seeking support.

On Sunday, on Moqtada Al Sadr’s urging, thousands of protesters took to the streets to demand government reform and a quick cabinet shuffle.

Baghdad’s Tahrir Square filled with members of al Sadr’s movement, plus tribal people, with tents ready for a long protest. Scores of protesters also took over key positions near government ministries, including the Interior Ministry.

The correspondent for Radio Sawa told AsiaNews that security forces "banned the demonstrators from putting up tents near the ministries," pushing them towards Tahrir Square already occupied by other tents for days.

The authorities deployed police and security forces in great numbers, as well as T-walls, portable, steel-reinforced concrete blast walls, near the Green Zone, which houses government departments.

Last Saturday, Muqtada Al Sadr had launched an appeal to the "Sons of the nation" in favour of rebel MPs to force ministers to resign in favour of a technocratic cabinet under Prime Minister Haider al Abadi giving the president, the prime minister and the speaker three days to carry out a cabinet shuffle.

Meanwhile, the United States is closely monitoring the political crisis in Iraq. US Defence Secretary Ash Carter flew in yesterday without informing the Iraqi government in advance.

Carter landed directly at a military air base. At the same time, US President Barack Obama announced the deployment of additional US troops to Iraq.

This has led to speculation about Washington’s desire to see a ten-member national emergency government take over in Iraq to hold new elections in order to set up a new more stable government, and prevent the country from slipping into further chaos.

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