Iraqi Interim Parliament Speaker Mohammed Ali Zaini has called on newly-elected MPs to convene an emergency assembly session on Saturday to discuss ongoing unrest in the southern Basra province.
According to a parliamentary statement issued Friday, the emergency session -- to be held tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. local time -- will be attended by Prime Minister PM Haider Abadi and several government ministers.
Since July 9, Iraq’s Shia-majority central and southern provinces -- especially Basra -- have been rocked by protests to demand better public services, more job opportunities and an end to government corruption.
On Thursday evening, the authorities declared an indefinite curfew in Basra after demonstrators tried to torch several government buildings, including the provincial headquarters and a state television broadcast building.
Since the protests began almost two months ago, at least 26 demonstrators have been killed in clashes with security forces, according to Iraq’s state-run Human Rights Commission.
On Friday, Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s leading Shia cleric, criticized the government’s apparent inability to contain the burgeoning unrest.
“We have asked the government -- more than once -- to deal with the situation in Basra,” Abdul-Mahdi al-Karbalai, al-Sistani's representative, said in a Friday sermon.
“But we have found no to listen, as our leaders remain locked in political disputes,” he added.
Parliament’s first session on Monday saw fierce disagreements between two coalitions, both of which claimed to have attained a parliamentary majority.
According to Iraq’s constitution, the largest bloc in parliament has the right to form the country’s next government.
At a Tuesday session attended by only 85 of 329 lawmakers, it was decided to postpone a scheduled vote for a new assembly speaker until mid-September.