The tables turned on Saturday against Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi as two main blocs that were victorious in the May parliamentary elections demanded his resignation in wake of the protests in the southern city of Basra.
Abadi. who was banking on his alliance with Sadr movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr to become premier for a second term, is seeing this chance go up in smoke.
Sadr, who is head of the Sairoun bloc, emerged as the victor in the elections.
Parliament held an extraordinary session Saturday to discuss the Basra protests.
Sairoun spokesman MP Hassan al-Aqouli called on “Abadi to step down and apologize to the people.”
Ahmed al-Assadi, spokesman for the second-largest list in parliament, the Fateh alliance, condemned "the government's failure to resolve the crisis in Basra", where 12 protesters were killed this week in clashes with security forces.
Abadi for his part, called for Basra to be kept away from the political dispute between parties and armed factions there, warning that the situation could deteriorate into an armed clash.
Sadr, meanwhile, called for reviewing the way in which candidates can run for the position of prime minister.
Saturday’s parliament session was preceded by a verbal quarrel between Abadi’s guards and parliament security forces. The meeting also ended with a verbal spat between the premier and Basra Governor Asaad al-Idani.
Political science professor at the University of Baghdad Dr. Khaled Abdulilah told Asharq Al-Awsat that the crisis in Basra is part of the political dispute between rival blocs over the formation of the new government and the largest bloc in parliament.
The political dispute has reached a dangerous stage because it is not just a struggle for power, but a struggle “for controlling oil, ports and the distribution of gains,” he added.
Official government spokesman Dr. Ali al-Dabbagh told Asharq Al-Awsat: “It is clear that the protests have taken a turn that not only reflects popular anger among the youth…, but it also reflects the fierce internal, regional and international competition to control Iraq.”
He noted Iran and the United States’ agendas in Iraq, but also remarked how political powers within the country itself are threatening to topple a government, should it be formed.
This reflects agendas that are seeking to eliminate the other are part of the wider conflict between Tehran and Washington, he warned.
Moreover, he remarked that the current government and Abadi himself have been unable to contain the Basra crisis.