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Raucous Iraqi MPs disrupt session to vote on government

Raucous Iraqi MPs disrupt session to vote on government
Iraqi security forces detain a demonstrator during an anti-government protest near the government building in Basra, Iraq December 4, 2018. REUTERS/Essam al-Sudani   -   Copyright  ESSAM AL-SUDANI(Reuters)
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BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Angry Iraqi lawmakers disrupted a parliamentary session meant to include a vote on the remainder of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s cabinet on Tuesday, banging tables and shouting “illegitimate” in opposition to his proposed candidates.

The MPs were mostly from the grouping led by populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and allies on the list of former premier Haider al-Abadi, one lawmaker said, showing Reuters a video of the session taken on his mobile phone.

Abdul Mahdi and the ministers he was seeking to appoint left parliament shortly after and the vote was postponed.

The incident vividly showed the depth of disagreement over who should fill the remaining eight posts in government, including the hotly contested interior and defence ministries.

A rivalry between Sadr and Iran-backed militia leader Hadi al-Amiri, who lead the two biggest blocs in parliament after a general election in May, has prevented the formation of a full government, which currently has 14 out of 22 ministers.

Sadr says candidates not affiliated with political sides must be presented. Amiri wants his ally Falih al-Fayyadh, former head of an Iran-backed paramilitary force, for the position of interior minister.

Abdel Mahdi said in a statement on Monday he would present Fayyadh as his candidate for the interior for parliament to vote on.

Sadr and Abadi’s blocs refused to attend the session in response but stormed in halfway through, charging that the session did not have a quorum to take place.

The deadlock over forming a cabinet has raised the prospect of further unrest as the country struggles to rebuild and recover after three years of war with Islamic State.

Sadr has threatened to withdraw support for the government if it is not formed soon and whip up popular protests.

Lack of jobs and services led to mass protests in the southern city of Basra in September.

On Tuesday police dispersed dozens of protesters in Basra in a similar but small demonstration, witnesses said.

(Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed and Aref Mohammed in Basra; Writing by John Davison; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)

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