Governor of Iraqi province of Najaf resigns after mass protests | News

Louai al-Yasseri’s resignation follows strong criticism from prominent Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr.

The governor of Iraq’s Najaf province resigned, a day after another governor also resigned following protests against living conditions and corruption.

Louai al-Yasseri resigned from his leadership in Najaf, in central Iraq, on Friday after the resignation of the governor of the province of Nasiriya (south), following the violent repression of the demonstrators.

Their departures underscore the challenges facing war-scarred Iraq and how little has changed despite the protests that swept through the capital Baghdad and southern parts of the country two years ago.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets to express their anger at corruption, unemployment and the collapse of public services, and hundreds were killed in violence linked to the protests.

Al-Yasseri announced at a press conference that he was stepping down from his post in the Shiite holy city, according to the official Iraqi news agency.

His resignation follows strong criticism from prominent Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr, who became kingmaker following the October parliamentary elections.

Al-Sadr paid a public visit to Najaf municipality on Wednesday after “reports of corruption and failures in this institution,” according to the news agency.

“We will work for the removal of Governor Najaf and his legal replacement,” he said.

On Friday evening, al-Sadr hailed the governor’s resignation as a “step in the right direction.”

In recent weeks, sporadic protests have erupted in Najaf and neighboring Diwaniya province, as well as in Nasiriya.

Protesters decried the living conditions and demanded job opportunities for young graduates.

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi on Wednesday held a security meeting to discuss the protests, where he reiterated the need to avoid “the use of force or firing”.

The next day, the governor of Nasiriya, Ahmed Ghani Khafaji, announced his resignation after protests in which three people were shot and wounded, according to a medical source.

Protests in 2019 have run out of steam after bloody crackdowns and the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. More than 600 people have been killed and tens of thousands injured during the protests.

Al-Kadhemi advanced the elections to October as a concession to the protesters.

But anger gave way to disillusionment and the ballot recorded a record turnout.

The al-Sadr movement – which once led an armed group against US and Iraqi government forces – won 73 of the 329 assembly seats, the election commission said.

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