Hundreds of supporters of the popular Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr have stormed the Iraqi parliament building to express their anger at the country's political gridlock. Protesters frustrated that MPs had once again failed to convene for a key vote that could overhaul Iraq's political system broke through the gates of the protected Green Zone on Saturday 30 April, and have occupied government buildings. Media reports suggest the crowds are ransacking buildings.
Sadr, a major political figurehead for the country's Shia majority, wants the Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi to continue with plans to replace various ministerial positions with non-partisan officials.
Reuters reports that protesters had gathered outside the parliament district, a heavily fortified area of Baghdad which contains government buildings and embassies, chanting "the cowards ran away", after the latest political let-down. Some groups of protesters are said to have tried to prevent others from causing damage to buildings.
Politicians have continually failed to ratify the PM's proposed cabinet reshuffle for more than a month, in the face of mounting public pressure. Sadr, who despite being a key figure in Iraq holds no elected office, has been whipping up support for Abadi's reforms, which have been designed to crack down on political patronage and corruption. Part of his campaign has involved a sit-in by thousands of his followers in the city's main Tahrir Square.
Abadi was elected in 2014, vowing to tackle the country's endemic political corruption, and to try and combat the violent sectarianism that has plagued it since the end of the American-led occupation. Other elected officials have so far prevented him from delivering the technocratic changes he had promised.
Sadr has meanwhile warned he could "destroy" Iraq's government, according to a report in Kurdish media. "I am promising you that I will not make any agreements with other politicians. I work for the benefit of the nation," Sadr said in a speech at the holy city of Najaf. "If the nation lets me I can end the current government and form a new one without any corruption."