Iraq protesters unconvinced after Mohammed Allawi named PM

Iraq protesters unconvinced after Mohammed Allawi named PM

Appointment welcomed by influential cleric but draws mixed response from demonstrators

Iraq’s president has named former communications minister Mohammed Allawi as the country’s new prime minister after an 11th-hour consensus among political blocs, but the streets were ambivalent about his nomination.

Baghdad and the mainly Shia south have been gripped by four months of anti-government rallies demanding snap elections, a politically independent prime minister and accountability for corruption and protest-related violence.

Prime minister Adel Abdel Mahdi resigned in December but political factions had been unable to agree on a replacement.

Frustrated by the delays and worried about further instability, president Barham Saleh gave political blocs until Saturday to nominate a new prime minister, sending them into crisis talks that produced a consensus on Allawi.

On Saturday evening, Allawi addressed Iraqis on state television, pledging to form a representative government, hold early parliamentary elections and ensure justice for protest-related violence – all key demands of protesters.

More than 480 people have died and nearly 30,000 been wounded in protest-related violence since October.

“This nomination places a huge, historic responsibility on my shoulders,” Allawi said in his formal address. He had earlier posted a video to Twitter announcing the nomination. “I will ask you to keep up the protests, because if you are not with me, I won’t be able to do anything,” Allawi said.

The president’s office published photographs of Saleh sternly handing a smiling Allawi the nomination papers.

Abdel Mahdi congratulated his successor and the United Nations welcomed the move. “The prime minister-designate faces a monumental task,” said the UN’s top official in Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert.

Allawi’s nomination came after three days of intense talks over a shortlist of candidates, with senior government officials skeptical about a nomination until the evening. The contenders needed a green light from a dizzying array of interests – the divided political class, the Shia religious leadership, neighbouring Iran and its rival the United States, as well as the protesters.

One of the most influential political figures is Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr, who led the anti-US Mehdi army militia after the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and has since refashioned himself as a populist politician. He threw his weight behind Allawi. “This is a good step,” he wrote on Twitter. “I hope the president’s appointment of Mohammad Allawi is acceptable to the people and that they have patience.”

But protesters across Iraq were unconvinced. Within minutes of the announcement, many in Baghdad’s main protest camp of Tahrir Square began chanting, “Allawi is rejected, Allawi is rejected!”

Demonstrators in the city of Najaf pledged to escalate their movement further as Allawi was not the independent they had long demanded.

“Mohammad Allawi’s nomination came with the approval of the same corrupt political blocs we’ve been protesting against for over four months,” said lawyer Hassan Mayahi, marching in Diwaniyah.

And in Nasiriyah, demonstrators sealed off two bridges with burning tyres.

Allawi, a 65-year-old Shia Muslim, served as communications minister twice under former prime minister Nuri al-Maliki but resigned both times, alleging corruption and interference in personnel appointments. He pledged in his new role to build a cabinet based on competence, not connections.

 

 

www.prensa.cancilleria.gob.ar es un sitio web oficial del Gobierno Argentino