Photos: Protesters storm Iraqi parliament in Baghdad | Protests News

Hundreds of demonstrators, mostly supporters of powerful Iraqi religious leader Muqtada al-Sadr, danced and sang in the Iraqi parliament after storming Baghdad’s high-security Green Zone to protest against the bloc’s candidate rival for the post of Prime Minister.

Police fired tear gas barrages on Wednesday in an attempt to prevent protesters from breaking through the gates of the heavily fortified Green Zone, but the crowd surged forward and entered parliament.

The protests are the latest challenge for Iraq, which remains mired in political and socio-economic crises despite soaring global energy prices.

Crowds marched through the parliament building waving national flags, taking photos, singing and cheering.

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi called on protesters to “withdraw immediately”, warning that the security forces would ensure “the protection of state institutions and foreign missions, and prevent any attacks on security and the order”.

But it took orders issued by Shiite leader al-Sadr before the crowd of protesters began to leave nearly two hours later.

The demonstrators oppose the candidacy of Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, a former minister and former provincial governor, who is the Alliance’s choice of Coordinating Framework for the post of prime minister.

The coordination framework brings together politicians from former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s party and the pro-Iranian Fatah Alliance, the political arm of the former Shiite-led paramilitary group Hashd al-Shaabi.

The bloc vies with al-Sadr for support and has won seats in parliament since the Sadrist MPs resigned in June. However, the storming of parliament is an implicit show of strength from al-Sadr and a message that even after his bloc resigns, he should not be ignored in political decision-making.

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