Controversial Iraqi PM-designate to face confidence vote as protesters 'plan to form political party'

Controversial Iraqi PM-designate to face confidence vote as protesters 'plan to form political party'
Iraq's PM-designate will meet the country's ruling political factions on Monday, ahead of a confidence vote later this week. Protesters now seek to form a political party, according to activists.
3 min read
17 February, 2020
Protesters who remain in the streets have been subject to ongoing violence [Getty]
Iraq's Prime Minister-designate Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi will meet with the country's governing political factions on Monday, ahead of a confidence vote later this week, amid staunch opposition from protesters who see him as a stooge of the political elite. 

Allawi will also announce his cabinet this week, according to The New Arab's Arabic-language sister site, with posts likely to be shared out among those from the country's ruling political class, whom protesters have rallied against for months.

Saad Al-Matlibi, an official in former Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki's State of Law Coalition, who spoke to The New Arab, said that winning the confidence vote was a farce that would only "escalate the actions of protesters".

According to activists, elements within the protest movement, which is a broad church, are seeking to form a national political party, as another avenue of realising its demands in a state wholly subordinate to its deeply-entrenched political networks.

Nominated on 1 February as a consensus candidate among Iraq's fractured parties, Prime Minister-designate Allawi has only recieved public endorsment by Shia cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr.

The cleric first backed the rallies but split with the main protest movement after endorsing Allawi, whom demonstrators consider too close to a political establishment that have governed Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion.

On Friday, thousands of supporters of the cleric protested to support the sanctity of "religious symbols", a day after a march saw unprecedented public criticism of their leader.

"We are one tribe and our leader is Moqtada Al-Sadr!" chanted a crowd of men on Friday in Tahrir Square, the main gathering place in Iraq's capital for rival anti-government rallies. 

Around 550 people have been killed since the anti-government movement erupted in October and around 30,000 more have been wounded, a vast majority of them young demonstrators. 

As the movement has dwindled, some hardcore protesters have opted to remain in the streets but they have been subject to ongoing violence.

Activists have for months complained of a campaign of targeted kidnappings and even assassinations aimed at keeping them from protesting and for which no one has been held accountable.

A senior UN envoy to Iraq on Monday condemned the use of hunting rifles firing birdshot against unarmed protesters in Baghdad.

The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq said it had obtained credible evidence that protesters had been targeted with hunting rifles, stones and firebombs on the nights of 14 to 16 February, causing at least 50 injuries.

"The continued pattern of the use of excessive force, with ambiguously identified armed groups and unclear loyalties, is a grave security concern that must be tackled urgently and decisively. Peaceful protesters should be protected at all times," said Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq.

There was no immediate comment from Iraqi authorities.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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