Baghdad, Iraq (CNN) – Hundreds of angry protesters loyal to the powerful cleric Muqtada al-Sadr broke into Baghdad’s heavily protected Green Zone on Wednesday, denouncing the nomination of a new prime minister.
Mohammed Shiya al-Sudani was formally nominated to lead the country on Monday by the Coordination Framework, the largest Shiite alliance in the Iraqi parliament.
His nomination followed the mass resignation of al-Sadr’s parliamentary bloc, a group of over 70 lawmakers who withdrew from the governing body last month in an apparent show of force after months of political stalemate.
Iraq has struggled to form a new government since parliamentary elections in October; Sadr’s own attempts to form a government have previously foundered amid opposition from rival blocs.
“If the Sadrist bloc remaining [in parliament] is an obstacle to government formation, then all lawmakers of the bloc are honorably ready to resign from parliament,” Sadr said in a televised speech in June.
The cleric, who positions himself as against both Iran and the United States, is immensely popular. His bloc’s success in the October vote threatened to sideline Iran-aligned Shiite blocs that have long dominated the oil-rich country’s politics.
On Wednesday, al-Sadr told protesters at the Parliament building that their “message” had been received and that they should return home.
“A revolution of reform and rejection of injustice and corruption. Your message has been received. You have terrified the corrupt. Pray, and return home safely,” he tweeted.
The outgoing government of Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi also issued a statement calling on the Sadrist protesters to “to immediately withdraw from the Green Zone,” preserve public and private properties and to abide by the instructions of the security forces.
“The security forces will be committed to protecting state institutions and international missions, and preventing any disturbance of security and order,” al-Kadhimi added.
Hamdi Alkhshali reported from Atlanta; Aqeel Najim reported from Baghdad.