BAGHDAD — Hundreds of supporters of Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr have stormed Baghdad’s Green Zone and entered the parliament building after MPs failed to convene for a vote on overhauling the government.
The dissenters, who had gathered outside the heavily fortified district housing government buildings and many foreign embassies, crossed a bridge over the Tigris River chanting: “The cowards ran away!”
It was an apparent reference to MPs leaving parliament, a witness said.
A guard at a checkpoint said the protesters had not been searched before entering.
About ten members of the armed group loyal to Mr Sadr were checking protesters cursorily as government security forces, who usually conduct careful searches with bomb-sniffing dogs, stood by the side, the witness said.
The protesters, who had gathered outside the heavily fortified district housing government buildings and many foreign embassies, crossed a bridge over the Tigris River chanting: “The cowards ran away!”
Supporters of Mr Sadr, whose fighters once controlled swathes of Baghdad and helped defend the capital from Islamic State, have been demonstrating for weeks at the gates of the Green Zone, responding to their leader’s call to pressure the government to reform.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi wants to replace some ministers — chosen to balance Iraq’s divisions along party, ethnic and sectarian lines — with technocrats in order to combat corruption, but political parties have resisted the changes.
Mr Abadi has warned that any delay to the vote could hamper the war against Islamic State, which controls vast swathes of northern and western Iraq.
Rudaw TV showed protesters chanting and taking selfies inside the parliament chamber where moments earlier lawmakers had been meeting.
The Green Zone unrest kicked off minutes after powerful cleric Moqtada al-Sadr wrapped up a news conference in the holy Shiite city of Najaf during which he condemned the political deadlock.
Last month he had threatened that his supporters would storm the Green Zone, but he did not order them to enter the area in his Saturday address.
Govt to present its policies and programmes Monday
KATHMANDU — The government is preparing to present its policies and programs for the fiscal year 2018/19 at the Federal Parliament on Monday.
According to Joint Spokesperson at the Federal Parliament Secretariat Keshav Aryal, all preparations are over for the release of the government policies and programs to be made by the President Bidya Devi Bhandari from New Baneshwor-based Federal Parliament Building at 4:00 pm Monday.
President Bhandari would unveil the government policies and programs for the first time in the joint meeting of the Federal Parliament after the promulgation of the new constitution.
As per the constitution, the President can address any of the House meeting or the joint meeting of the Federal Parliaments and summon the lawmakers for their presence.
Vice President, top leaders of different political parties, high-ranking government officials, chiefs of the constitutional bodies, chiefs of the security bodies and chiefs of the diplomatic missions in Nepal are invited for the program.Follow @gorkhapost