Iraqi prime minister agrees to step down

It, however remains unclear whether he will resign immediately or if he will wait until a successor is named

Photo: AFP Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi

Iraq's President Barham Salih says Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi has agreed to stand down if the right replacement can be found to avoid a constitutional vacuum. The announcement comes amid a swell of deadly anti-government protests that saw thousands of people blaming the government for corruption, unemployment and poor public services and demanding for reform.

"The prime minister had previously agreed to submit his resignation," Salih said in a live address, according to a translation by Reuters, "if the blocs agree on an acceptable replacement in order to adhere to constitutional and legal frameworks."

It thus remains unclear if Abdul-Mahdi plans to step down immediately or if he will wait until his successor is named. But Salih made clear that the status quo cannot stand - adding a promise to pursue a new election law allowing younger people, under the currently mandated age of 35, to run for seats in parliament.

The decision is sure to cheer protesters, who in recent weeks have gathered in the hundreds of thousands to demand change that begins with the prime minister but certainly does not end there. They have called for a widespread overhaul of the government, condemning the country's rampant unemployment and violence and a political class they see as corrupt, cruel or utterly inept.

Amid the unrest, Iraqi security forces have clashed frequently with the protesters. Last week, a government-appointed investigation found that those forces had killed roughly 150 people and injured thousands more in their attempts to disperse the protests since the start of the month. Since that report's release, the death toll has continued to swell upward of 200.

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