Iraqi parliament speaker says cabinet reshuffle may be considered

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A cabinet reshuffle will be taken into consideration if Iraq’s Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi calls for one, Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi said on Saturday.

A parliamentary committee has been formed to review cases in which protesters and security officials were targeted during the demonstrations, al-Halbousi told Al Arabiya, adding that any corrupt officials should be jailed.

Security agencies fatally shot 19 protesters and wounded more than three dozen during anti-government rallies in the capital and across several provinces for a fifth day on Saturday.

The semi-official Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights, affiliated with the parliament, put the death toll at 94.

Al-Halbousi said that “the protesters are not backed by anyone,” but implied that there were “infiltrators” amidst the demonstrators.

He called on protesters who did not attend Saturday’s meeting to attend the next session to put forth their demands.

“If the demonstrators’ demands are not met, I will join them [to protest] in the streets,” he added.

Al-Halbousi said that the political blocs who suspended their participation in parliamentary activities could resume their official posts once the government introduces a program that meets protestors’ demands.

Among the political blocs who suspended their participation in parliament activities is influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s Sairoon bloc, who announced the suspension on Friday. Al-Sadr stated that they will only revoke the suspension if the government addresses protesters’ demands.

Al-Halbousi added that he also respected al-Sadr’s demands, but said that the government must be given more time to implement a program.

Tensions have been exacerbated by a near-total internet blackout as the authorities seek to prevent protesters communicating with each other or posting footage of the chaotic demonstrations.

The demonstrations are the biggest challenge yet to Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi, who has imposed curfews in Baghdad and other cities to try to stop the protests gathering steam.

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