Iraqi MPs disrupted a parliament session Tuesday, blocking Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi from presenting a new cabinet lineup aimed at fighting corruption as tens of thousands of protesters took over part of central Baghdad to demand a vote.
More than a dozen deputies followed Abadi into the legislative chamber, clapping, slamming their hands on desks and chanting slogans like “invalid” and “treachery” for nearly an hour before the session was adjourned.
Abadi, who has offered two new lineups in the past month, did not get the chance to announce his latest proposal for ministerial candidates which speaker Salim al-Jabouri said he had come to parliament to present.
Water bottles thrown inside the chamber landed near Abadi, a deputy and a political source said, forcing camouflaged guards accompanying the premier to intervene.
Abadi, who is pushing to replace party-affiliated ministers with technocrats, has warned that the political crisis could hamper the war against Islamic State, which controls swathes of territory in the north and west of the oil-rich country.
The parliament session convened with enough attendees to reach a quorum, despite attempts to block the meeting by around 100 deputies who have been holding a sit-in in and around the main chamber for nearly two weeks, bringing government to a standstill.
Protesting deputies gathered in the parliament cafeteria chanted “illegal” as the session came to order, a Reuters witness said.
“Take your seats. This is not permitted. The session is not adjourned,” Jabouri said, wagging his finger. “This is rejected. The Iraqi people are waiting for us to complete the cabinet reshuffle.”
Jabouri said bloc leaders had decided to vote on the cabinet reshuffle on Tuesday, but that was not certain after he called for an adjournment to speak with the protesting members which appeared to drag on past the allotted 30 minutes.
It was not clear whether Abadi intended to offer new names or revive previous ones. Lawmakers suggested as many as 10 ministries could be changed.
The protesting lawmakers argue that Jabouri’s session is unconstitutional.
In a widely contested vote this month, they moved to sack him as part of demands to reform a system that allocates positions based on ethnic and sectarian quotas. They have also threatened to take the issue to court.