Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel-Mahdi said on Friday that he would resign, a day after dozens of anti-government protesters were killed in the country.
Abdel-Mahdi, who made this known in a written statement, added: “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.”
He said that his move was in response to a call made by the country’s top Shiite cleric Ali al-Sistani for parliament to “reconsider” it’s backing of the government.
Abdel-Mahdi, 77, became prime minister in October last year.
Earlier on Friday, al-Sistani condemned attacks on peaceful protesters and accused Iraqi authorities of failing to deal with the demonstrations that started nearly two months ago.
“The House of Deputies, which approved the current government, is invited to reconsider its choices in this regard and act in a way that Iraq’s interests dictate, safeguard the people’s blood and avoids seeing the country slip into the vortex of violence, chaos, and havoc,” al-Sistani said in a mosque sermon.
The cleric’s views are closely followed in Iraq and wield influence on the country’s politicians.
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.
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.
Iraqi judicial authorities said on Friday 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.