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Iraqi protesters have once again breached the Iraqi parliament in a show of support for influential Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr, days after they stormed the Legislative Council and suspended a session to name a new prime minister.
On Saturday, security forces fired tear gas and stun grenades as protesters used ropes to demolish and climb a number of large concrete barriers surrounding the Green Zone, which encircles government buildings and foreign embassies.
“All the people are with you, Sayyid Muqtada,” the demonstrators chanted, using his nickname, a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad.
The media office of Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kazemi issued a statement calling on security officers to ensure the safety of state institutions.
Mahmoud Abdel Wahed, Al Jazeera’s correspondent from Baghdad, said the protesters did not back down despite reports of several injuries.
He added that on Wednesday, when a large crowd occupied the parliament building, security forces allowed large crowds to enter the perimeter of the building relatively unimpeded.
Demonstrators oppose the candidacy of Muhammad Shia al-Sudani, a former minister and former governor of the province, who chose the pro-Iranian coordination framework for the post of prime minister.
A vote on the inauguration of Al-Sudani as prime minister was scheduled for Saturday, but the session was suspended after Wednesday’s events.
Abdul Wahed said Sadr’s supporters had met again because they did not trust the parliament would not go ahead with the vote. “They say that the suspension of the session does not mean that voting cannot continue behind closed doors,” he said.
Sadr’s bloc emerged from the October elections as the largest parliamentary faction, but it remains well short of a majority.
Ten months later, the impasse remains over the formation of a new government – the longest period since the 2003 US invasion to restore political order in the oil-rich country.
People are calling for change, said Al Jazeera’s Dorsa Jabari. They do not want the former corrupt politicians to remain in power, nor do they want the country to have any of them [interference] by the United States and Iran.
“We are here for a revolution,” said protester Haider al-Lami.
“We don’t want the corrupt, we don’t want those who have been in power back… since 2003… they have only done us harm.”
Although al-Sadr’s coalition won the most seats in the October parliamentary elections, the opposing political parties failed to reach the two-thirds majority needed to choose the president – an important step before a prime minister could be chosen.
After negotiations faltered, al-Sadr withdrew his bloc from parliament and announced his withdrawal from government formation talks.
Mass mobilization is an old strategy for al-Sadr, a mercurial figure who has emerged as a powerful force with an anti-Iranian nationalist agenda.
Wednesday’s storming of parliament came after Sadr’s Tehran-backed political rival, former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, nominated a pro-Iranian politician to be Iraq’s new leader.
By custom, the position of prime minister goes to a leader from the Shiite majority in Iraq.
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