Iraq president Barham Salih offers to step down amid protests

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Iraqi President Barham Salih has handed his resignation to parliament after refusing to endorse a nominee for the prime ministership from an Iran backed political group.

He said that he would rather step down than pick a new prime minister rejected by demonstrators but as the constitution does not allow him to reject a nomination he would resign.

Parliament will now have to meet to discuss and vote on the resignation. If they endorse the move, Mr Salih will step down.

Parliament’s Binaa bloc on Wednesday nominated Assad Al Eidani, the governor of Basra and a former minister of youth and sports. The alliance is led by Iranian-backed politician Hadi Al Amiri.

“I apologies for nominating Assad Al Edani for the role of prime minister,” Mr Salih wrote in his letter to parliament. “I prefer to resign than to nominate another candidate and this is for the interest of the public.”

He said that the protest movement makes it imperative that politicians look at the interests of the public over personal or political considerations.

“It is better for me to resign rather than to assign an individual that is objected by the protesters to form a government,” he added.

He then pointed to the ongoing issue over which political bloc in parliament was the largest and therefore allowed to submit their nomination for prime minister. The issue has not been resolved since the election in May 2018.

Protesters wave the Iraqi national flag at a roadblock in the southern city of Basra. AFP

A protester holds a national flag as he stands by a fire in Basra. AFP

A protester draped in a national flag stands by a fire in Basra. AFP

A protester wearing face-paint imitating "The Joker" poses for a picture near a sit-in by Senak bridge over the Tigris in Baghdad. AFP

A protester looks out from a tent on the Senak bridge. AFP

A Christmas tree is decorated with national flags and the pictures of protesters who were killed in clashes at Tahrir Square. EPA

A protester walks by crossed pictures of senior Iraqi officials in Tahrir Square. EPA

Protesters stage a sit-in near Tahrir Square. AP Photo

Protesters stage a sit-in on barriers at the Senak bridge leading to the heavily fortified Green Zone. AP Photo

A view of concrete barriers forming a barricade along Senak bridge. AFP

Protesters stage a sit-in on barriers at the Ahrar bridge. AP Photo

A view of the sit-in beneath the abandoned "Turkish Restaurant" building overlooking Tahrir Square. AFP

Protesters stage a sit-in while security forces close the Ahrar Bridge. AP Photo

“We've received various statements about which bloc has the largest number of lawmakers and discussions are ongoing regarding this issue."

Since the start of October, tens of thousands of Iraqis have been on the streets demanding a change in leadership and a government that can tackle endemic corruption, unemployment and improve public services.

Over 450 demonstrators have been killed since the movement began, with security forces and Iran-backed Iraqi militias blamed for bloody crackdowns.

On December, parliament voted to accept prime minister Adil Abdul Mahdi’s resignation, collapsing the government. Since then, no consensus has been reached on a replacement who can start assembling a government.

The move by Mr Salih puts the ball back into Parliament’s court to seek a solution to the crisis. The departure of the president at a time when there is no cabinet would throw the country into a political crisis with no leadership and facing mass rallies across the capital and the south.

"Mr Salih will not be ordered or bossed around by corrupt parties," Ahmed Al Jabouri, the vocally anti-Iran MP for Nineveh province, wrote on Twitter in support of the president.

Within moments of the news, the hashtag “Barham Salih is the People's President' began trending on Twitter in Arabic.

Updated: December 26, 2019 05:07 PM

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