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Iraq president rejects Iran-backed prime minister nominee

  • A protester hits a poster with a defaced picture of Asaad al-Eidani, Iran-backed parliamentary bloc’s nominee for the post of prime minister in Baghdad, Iraq on Thursday. AP

  • Mourners carry the body of their fellow protester Ameer al-Jalabib onto the top of cement blocks that separate them from riot police on a bridge, under a poster with his picture, his name and Arabic that reads "the hero Martyr," during his funeral in Tahrir Square, Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Dec. 26, 2019. Ameer succumbed to his wounds on Wednesday after being injured during anti-government demonstrations on October 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser) Nasser Nasser

  • Protesters hold a poster with a defaced picture of Asaad al-Eidani, Iran-backed parliamentary bloc's nominee for the post of the prime minister and Arabic that reads "rejected by the people," in Tahrir Square during anti-government demonstrations in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Dec. 26, 2019. Iraq's president refused Thursday to designate Asaad al-Eidani for the post of prime minister after he was rejected by anti-government protesters and said he was ready to submit his resignation to Parliament. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed) Khalid Mohammed

  • Protesters hang a big poster with a defaced picture of Asaad al-Eidani, Iran-backed parliamentary bloc's nominee for the post of the prime minister and Arabic that reads "rejected by the people," in Tahrir Square during anti-government demonstrations in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Dec. 26, 2019. Iraq's president refused Thursday to designate Asaad al-Eidani for the post of prime minister after he was rejected by anti-government protesters and said he was ready to submit his resignation to Parliament. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed) Khalid Mohammed

  • A poster with a defaced picture of Asaad al-Eidani, Iran-backed parliamentary bloc's nominee for the post of the prime minister and Arabic that reads "rejected by the people," lying on the ground in Tahrir Square during anti-government demonstrations in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Dec. 26, 2019. Iraq's president refused Thursday to designate the Iran-backed parliamentary bloc's nominee for prime minister after he was rejected by anti-government protesters, saying he was prepared to submit his resignation to Parliament. Barham Saleh said in a statement issued by his office that he would not name the governor of the southern Basra province, Asaad al-Eidani, as the country's next prime minister "to avoid more bloodshed and in order to safeguard civil peace." (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed) Khalid Mohammed

  • Women are wrapped the Iraqi flags during the ongoing protests in Tahrir Square, Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Dec. 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser) Nasser Nasser

  • Mourning protesters chant anti-government slogans while attending the funeral of their slain fellow protester Ameer al-Jalabi, posters with his name and picture on their chests, during the ongoing protests in Tahrir Square, Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Dec. 26, 2019. Ameer succumbed to his wounds on Wednesday after being injured during the anti-government demonstrations on October 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser) Nasser Nasser

  • Mourners carry the body of their fellow protester Ameer al-Jalabi, posters with his name and picture on front, during his funeral in Tahrir Square, Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Dec. 26, 2019. Ameer succumbed to his wounds on Wednesday after being injured during anti-government demonstrations on October 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser) Nasser Nasser

  • Anti-government protesters camp behind cement blocks, on the right side of a bridge, that separate them from riot police, on the left side, during the ongoing protests in Tahrir Square, Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Dec. 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser) Nasser Nasser

Associated Press
Published: 12/26/2019 4:23:37 PM

Iraq’s president refused on Thursday to designate a prime minister candidate nominated by the Iran-backed parliamentary bloc, plunging the country into further political uncertainty amid nearly three months of unprecedented mass protests.

President Barham Saleh said in a statement issued by his office that he would not name the governor of the southern Basra province, Asaad al-Eidani, as the country’s next prime minister “to avoid more bloodshed and in order to safeguard civil peace.”

Al-Eidani’s name was proposed on Wednesday by the Fatah bloc, which includes leaders associated with the Iran-supported paramilitary Popular Mobilization Forces. His nomination was promptly rejected by Iraqi protesters who poured into the streets Wednesday demanding an independent candidate.

Demonstrators first took to the streets on Oct. 1 to call for the overthrow of Iraq’s entire political class over corruption and mismanagement. The mass uprisings prompted the resignation of former Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi late last month. More than 450 people have been killed since October, the vast majority of them protesters killed by security forces firing tear gas and live ammunition.

Concentrated in Baghdad and the mostly Shiite-inhabited south, the protests have since evolved into an uprising against Iran’s political and military influence in the country.

Saleh said he was prepared to submit his resignation to Parliament, as his refusal to designate al-Eidani could be construed as a violation of the constitution. He stopped short of actually stepping down, however, saying in a statement addressed to the Parliament speaker that he would leave it up to lawmakers to decide “as they see fit.” Shortly after issuing the statement, the president left Baghdad for his hometown in the northern city of Sulaimaniyah.

Under the constitution, parliament has seven days to accept or reject a president’s resignation before it automatically goes into effect. It was unclear how lawmakers would react, as Saleh did not officially resign.

In Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, which has emerged as a focal point of their demonstrations, protesters gathered to celebrate the president’s decision.

“This is a victory for the demonstrators and a victory for the blood of the martyrs,” said activist Hassanein Gharib. “Because of street pressure, the candidate of the (political) parties was rejected, and we will not accept and we will not return to our homes if the party candidate is nominated.”




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