An Iranian-backed bloc in Iraq’s parliament on Wednesday nominated Asaad al-Eidani, the governor of the southern province of Basra, as the new prime minister, a move rejected by many protesters who demand a complete overhaul of the political system.
“As the largest parliamentary bloc according to Article 76 of the Iraqi constitution, the Binaa bloc has nominated the governor of Basra, Asaad al-Eidani, as the new prime minister,” the bloc’s spokesman Ahmad al-Assadi, told our reporters.
The Binaa bloc, which is linked to the Iran-backed Popular Mobilisation Units (PMF), includes the Fatah alliance led by Hadi al-Amrir and the State of the Law Coalition led by former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
“We have handed President Barham Salih our nomination and we expect him to announce that he has tasked al-Eidani with forming a new government shortly,” al-Assadi told our reporters.
Mass protests have gripped Iraq since October 1, with demonstrators demanding a complete overhaul of the political system and class they see as sectarian, corrupt and keeping most Iraqis in poverty. More than 450 people have been killed.
Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi resigned in November amid pressure from the street demonstrations. He has remained in office in a caretaker capacity.
Negotiations over a candidate had reached a deadlock since the latest in a series of deadlines expired at midnight on Sunday. Pro-Iran blocs tried to impose other candidates over the past week, but Iraqi President Barham Salih has reportedly put up resistance. On Tuesday, the parliament approved a new electoral law that will allow voters to elect individual legislators instead of choosing from party lists.
“The new prime minister will be responsible for leading a transitional government until free and fair elections are held,” al-Assadi said. “We chose al-Eidani because he is accepted among many of the political parties. We hope he will also be welcomed by the protest movement.”
Protesters reject nomination
But protesters in Tahrir Square, the hub of the protest movement in Iraq’s capital city Baghdad, rejected the nomination, saying al-Eidani represents the establishment.
“The protest movement refuses any candidate from across Iraq’s current political parties and alliances,” said Ali Khraybit, a 27-year-old protester in Tahrir Square.
“The protest movement is clear about who we want as a new prime minister. We want a candidate who isn’t corrupt and independent of the political establishment,” Khraybit told our reporters. “Al-Eidani is part of the political system we want overhauled and so our demonstrations will continue until we get a prime minister who fits our criteria.”
Protesters also opposed the nomination in the oil-rich city of Basra, which has seen mass protests along with other mainly Shia southern cities.
“I totally reject Asaad Al-Eidani as new PM,” Azhar al-Rubaei, a journalist and protester from Basra told Al Jazeera.
“Iraqis took to the streets to change the political system and put an end to Muhasasa system,” said Rubaei, referring to the sectarian quota-based political system, which Iraqi protesters want abolished.
According to Iraqi analyst Hamza Mustafa, the nomination of al-Eidani and his ability to form a new government also depends on the position of the Sairoon Alliance led by Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr.
“The success or failure of the new candidate is not only dependent on the acceptance or rejection of the protest movement,” said Mustafa,
“Sairoon’s reaction is also important because they were considered the largest bloc in parliament,” he added.
According to the number of seats won in the last election, Sairoon is the largest bloc. But shortly after Abdul Mahdi’s resignation, Sairoon abdicated its responsibility to nominate a new prime minister, saying that it wants to leave that decision to the Iraqi people.
“With Muqtada al-Sadr’s large following across Iraq and within the protest movement itself, he has the ability to mobilise his followers either for or against the new nominee,” Mustafa said.
“Therefore, even if the president tasks Eidani with forming a new government, if he is rejected by the protest movement and Sairoon, he will find many obstacles in the way of achieving that,” he added.
According to the Iraqi constitution, after the largest bloc nominates a new prime minister, the president will assign the candidate to form a new government within 30 days.
The new cabinet will then be voted on by parliament which needs an absolute majority to be voted in.