BAGHDAD – Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdelmahdi said on Tuesday that while he remains ready to resign in the face of anti-government protests, the country’s situation could worsen if he stepped down without agreement on a successor.
“We have said we have no problem presenting the resignation, but if the government resigns without there being a quick and simple substitute, what would we do? The (current) government would continue, would become a caretaker government,” he said in a televised speech after meeting with his Cabinet.
Without parliamentary agreement on a new prime minister, the administration would be paralyzed, Abdelmahdi said, pointing out that lawmakers have yet to approve the 2020 budget.
The second option, he said, would be to dissolve parliament and call elections within 60 days.
Pressure has mounted on Abdelmahdi since Oct. 25, when Iraqis took to the streets for the second time in a month to protest pervasive corruption, economic stagnation and the poor quality of basic services.
More than a hundred people have died in the second round of demonstrations, in addition to the 157 who perished in the unrest that began Oct. 1.
Thousands more have been injured.
“These protests sum up all the mistakes since 2003 (when the United States invaded Iraq) and reflect all the accumulations in the economic, legislative, social body,” Abdelmahdi said.
“The crises of the past were always addressed with other, bigger crises, they were temporary solutions,” he said, adding that the unresolved problems of the last 16 years led to the present “tsunami” of discontent.
Amid criticism of police repression of protests, Abdelmahdi said that the security forces should respect people expressing “legitimate” demands, though he accused unnamed actors of exploiting the situation to carry out “sabotage,” such as blocking roads.
“That can happen for a certain time to exert pressure and express demands, but its continuity for a long term would harm the country and raise prices,” he said.
Lawmakers demanded that Abdelmahdi appear in parliament last Thursday to answer questions, but the prime minister ignored the summons.
On the same day, President Barham Saleh said he was in favor of early elections and that Abdelmahdi was willing to step down.