BAGHDAD – Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel-Mahdi, facing weeks-long street protests, said on Friday he would resign, a day after dozens of anti-government demonstrators were killed.
“I will submit to the House of Deputies the official letter of resignation from heading the present government so that the assembly can reconsider its choices,” Abdel-Mahdi added in a written statement.
The Marching Forward Bloc, which has the largest number of seats at parliament, called on the legislature to meet on Saturday to vote on Abdel-Mahdi’s resignation.
Abdel-Mahdi said his resignation comes in response to a call made earlier Friday by the country’s top Shiite cleric Ali al-Sistani for parliament to “reconsider” its backing of the government.
Following his announcement of intending to step down, anti-government protesters, packing Baghdad’s iconic Tahrir Square, erupted in joy.
“Abdel-Mahdi’s resignation is just the beginning. All should go. They must be completely uprooted,” a protester in the plaza said, referring to Iraq’s ruling elite.
Other protesters meanwhile chanted in unison: “We sacrifice soul and blood for Iraq.”
Abdel-Mahdi, 77, became prime minister in October last year.
Street protests have roiled Iraq since early October, with demonstrators calling for the resignation of the government, the dissolution of parliament and an overhaul of the country’s political system, which has been in place since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
At least 380 people, mostly protesters, have since been killed and 17,700 others injured in the demonstrations, the semi-official Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights said on Friday.
Several rights groups have accused the Iraqi security forces of using excessive violence to quell the protests.
On Thursday, at least 32 people were killed in clashes with security forces in Iraq’s southern city of Nasiriya, triggering an outcry in the country.
Three more protesters were killed on Friday in renewed violence in Nasiriya, witnesses said.
Iraqi judicial authorities said they had set up a commission to investigate the deadly violence in Nasiriya.
The Supreme Judicial Council, Iraq’s highest judicial authority, has formed a three-judge panel to conduct an “urgent investigation into protester killings,” the council’s spokesman Abdel-Sattar Bairaqdar said, according to Iraq’s official news agency INA.
The demonstrations are the largest in Iraq since December 2017, when Baghdad declared the liberation of all territory previously under the control of Islamic State extremists.