Iraqi President Names New Prime Minister Amid Anti-government Protests

Two months after former premier ousted by protests, Mohammed Allawi has a month to form a new government and lead until early elections can be held

Reuters
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Anti-government protesters during clashes in Baghdad, Iraq, Jan. 31, 2020.
Anti-government protesters during clashes in Baghdad, Iraq, Jan. 31, 2020. Credit: AP Photo/Hadi Mizban
Reuters

Iraqi President Barham Salih appointed on Saturday Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi as new prime minister, state TV reported, after squabbling political parties failed to name a candidate in the two months since the former premier was ousted by popular protests.

Allawi would run the country until early elections can be held. He must form a new government within a month.

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Former Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi resigned in November amid mass anti-government unrest where hundreds of thousands of Iraqis took to the streets demanding the removal of Iraq's political elite. Nearly 500 protesters have been killed in a deadly crackdown by security forces.

Allawi was quoted by state TV as saying he would resign if political blocs sought to impose candidates for different ministries.

He also called on protesters to continue demonstrating until their demands are met.

However, protesters are likely to oppose him as prime minister.

For demonstrators who demand a removal of what they say is a corrupt ruling elite, the former communications minister under ex-premier Nuri al-Maliki – who presided over the fall of multiple Iraqi cities to theIslamic State group in 2014 and is accused of pro-Shi'ite sectarian policies –  is part of the system and therefore unacceptable.

Iraq is facing its biggest crisis since the military defeat of Islamic State in 2017. A mostly Shi'ite popular uprising in Baghdad and the south challenges the country's mainly Iran-backed Shi'ite Muslim ruling elite.

The country has been thrown into further disarray since the killing of Iranian military mastermind Qassem Soleimani in a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad on January 3. Iran responded with missile attacks on bases hosting U.S. forces, pushing the region to the brink of an all-out conflict.

Pro-Iran politicians have tried to use those events to shift the focus away from popular discontent with their grip on power and towards anti-American rallies and demands for the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

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