Iraq PM's job on line as allies rethink support
Baghdad - Massive rallies broke out in Iraq's capital and south this month against corruption and unemployment.
The future of Iraq's embattled premier was in the hands of his onetime parliamentary backers on Wednesday, as they deliberated over his ouster after mass anti-government protests that have left more than 240 dead.
Massive rallies broke out in Iraq's capital and south this month against corruption and unemployment, spiralling into angry calls for a total government overhaul.
By Wednesday, demonstrators were waiting to see whether the first fruit of their struggle - the ouster of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi - was finally within reach.
"Isn't it the people who have the power? Isn't it the people who put them all there?" asked protester Athir Malek, 39. He had come from Diwaniyah, 200km further south, to join the biggest rallies so far in Baghdad's Tahrir Square, where celebration was in the air.
They were joined on Wednesday by the United Nations' top representative in Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, who called again for a national dialogue to "unite against the perils of division and inaction".
Parliament has demanded that the premier appear "immediately" for questioning amid speculation he will face a no-confidence vote.
Mahdi, 77, came to power last year through a tenuous partnership between populist cleric Moqtada Sadr and paramilitary chief Hadi Al Ameri. The kingmakers' alliance has since drifted apart and protests widened the rift, with Sadr's Saeroon bloc, the biggest in parliament, endorsing the demonstrators.
The Hashed Al Shaabi paramilitary force, whose political arm Fatah is parliament's second-biggest bloc and is chaired by Ameri, has so far backed the government. Several Hashed offices were torched in southern Iraq last week, further straining ties.
But Sadr extended an invitation to Ameri late on Tuesday to coordinate on a no-confidence vote in Mahdi and using Twitter to urge the premier to "Get out!"
Hours later, Ameri announced he and Sadr would "work together to achieve the people's demands", hinting he may agree to a vote on the premier's future.