Abadi Orders Arrest of Parliament Protesters

Abadi Orders Arrest of Parliament ProtestersAbadi Orders Arrest of Parliament Protesters

Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has ordered the arrest of activists who stormed parliament in Baghdad on Saturday.

Abadi said those who caused damage and attacked police should be brought to justice. Supporters of cleric Moqtada Sadr broke through barricades of the fortified Green Zone in protest against delays in approving a new Cabinet. A state of emergency was declared in Baghdad after the protests, BBC reported.

Supporters of Sadr want MPs to push through plans to replace politically-affiliated ministers with non-partisan technocrats. Powerful parties in parliament have refused to approve the change for several weeks. This is one of the country’s worst political crises since the downfall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Systemic political patronage has aided corruption in Iraq, depleting the government’s resources as it struggles to cope with declining oil revenue and the war against the terrorist group Islamic State.

Earlier this week, hundreds of thousands of people marched towards the Green Zone, the most secure part of Baghdad that houses embassies and government buildings, to protest against the political deadlock.

Parliament again failed to reach a quorum on Saturday, after which the protest escalated and saw hundreds of people tear down blast walls and storm the parliament building.

Inside the chamber, jubilant demonstrators took up the seats of the deputies and posed for photos. Nearby, United Nations and embassy staff were on lockdown inside their compounds, Reuters reported.

After the protest, demonstrators set up camp outside the parliament and many were still there on Sunday. Despite Abadi’s order, made after he visited the damaged parliament building, there are no indications that any arrests have taken place. Iraq’s system of sharing government jobs has long been criticized for promoting unqualified candidates and encouraging corruption.