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Iraq’s parliament meets after protests spark political crisis

Iraq’s parliament meets after protests spark political crisis

AFP
Baghdad
Iraq’s parliament held its first session Tuesday after a week of anti-government protests that left dozens dead and sparked a political crisis the country’s president said required a “national dialogue”.
Security restrictions were lifted around Baghdad’s Green Zone, where government offices and embassies are based.
Morning traffic was at normal levels and an internet blackout in place for most of the past week appeared to ease.
More than 200 parliamentarians arrived for an extraordinary session called by speaker Mohammed al-Halbusi, defying expectations that they would not meet quorum.
MPs hosted several ministers to discuss the demonstrations, which erupted one week ago in Baghdad before spreading to the country’s Shiite-dominated south.
The session followed a failed attempt on Saturday, when parliament’s largest bloc, including the 54 MPs led by populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, boycotted the session.
Sadr threw his weight behind the protests last week and called on Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi to resign, but the embattled premier has held on and suggested his own string of reforms.
On Tuesday, Abdel Mahdi held marathon meetings with Halbusi, the cabinet, tribal chiefs, and the country’s top justice over the demonstrations, with his office’s statements insisting life had “returned to normal” after a week of bloody demonstrations. But it remains to be seen whether Halbusi and Abdel Mahdi’s suggestions would be enough to appease protesters, who have repeatedly said they had “nothing left to lose” and scoffed at overtures by political and religious figures.
The demonstrations began with demands for an end to rampant corruption and chronic unemployment but then escalated with calls for a complete overhaul of the political system.
They were unprecedented because of their apparent spontaneity and independence in a deeply politicised society, but have also been exceptionally deadly -- with more than 100 people killed and 6,000 wounded in one week.
On Monday night, President Barham Saleh made a televised appeal for “sons of the same country” to put an end to the “discord”.
Saleh said those responsible for the violence were “enemies of the people” and proposed a cabinet reshuffle, more oversight to stamp out corruption, and a “national, all-encompassing and frank dialogue... without foreign interference.”