The breach came amid the biggest protest since Iraqi elections were held in October. The demonstrators were protesting the recent nomination of Mohammed al-Sudani as the official nominee of the Coordination Framework bloc, a coalition led by Iran-backed Shiite parties and their allies.
Earlier Wednesday, demonstrators, many among them the followers of an influential cleric, breached Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone to protest the selection of a nominee for prime minister by Iran-backed parties.
Riot police used water cannons to repel demonstrators pulling down cement blast walls. But many breached the gates to the area, which houses government buildings and foreign embassies.
The demonstrators walked down the zone’s main thoroughfare, with dozens gathering outside the doors to the parliament building.
Riot police assembled at the doors to the main gates. Demonstrators crowded around two entrances to the Green Zone, with some scaling the cement wall and chanting, “Sudani, out!”
Caretaker Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi called for calm and restraint, and for protesters to “immediately withdraw” from the area.
The demonstrators were largely followers of influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who recently stepped down from the political process despite having won the most seats in the October federal election. Protesters carried portraits of the cleric.
Al-Sadr’s followers stormed the Green Zone in 2016 and entered the country’s parliament building.
Al-Sudani was selected by State of Law leader and former premier Nouri al-Maliki. Before al-Sudani can face parliament to be seated officially as premier-designate, parties must first select a president.
Al-Sadr exited government formation talks after he was not able to corral enough lawmakers to get the majority required to elect Iraq’s next president.
By replacing his lawmakers, the Framework leader pushed ahead to form next government. Many fear doing so also opens the doors to street protests organized by al-Sadr’s large grass roots following and instability.