Protests reported in Iraq following Electricity Minister’s resignation amid region-wide blackout

The Iraqi Minister of Electricity resigned on Tuesday afternoon after a Twitter hashtag campaign, fueled by Shia cleric Muqtada Sadr, called for his removal from office.

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In Iraq’s Basra province, protests took place on Tuesday night as the region continues to suffer from power outages. At least hundreds of the nation’s youth gathered in the city of Zubair to rail against the poor living conditions in the area.

Aggrieved demonstrators occupied streets connecting to the city center and burned tires in protest of the government’s mishandling of the energy supplies during the summer heatwaves.

In the country’s southern provinces of Muthanna, Maysan, Dhi Qar, and Basra, total blackouts have been observed throughout the week, according to Iraqi state media. The temperatures register as high as 50 degrees Celcius during the day.

The Iraqi Minister of Electricity, Majid Mahdi Hantoush, submitted his resignation earlier Tuesday after facing backlash for his inability to address the power outages.

The resignation came after Muqtada Sadr, a Shia cleric who is also the leader of the Sairoon Alliance, the strongest political bloc in the Iraqi parliament, demanded the minister be held accountable due to corruption and mismanagement of energy supplies and electricity services. A Twitter hashtag soon followed Sadr’s statements, where thousands called for the removal of Hantoush from office.

While Hantoush is not officially a member of a political party, he was first appointed during the caretaker government of Mohammad Tawfiq Allawi. The Allawi government was formed after Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi resigned in the face of protests that engulfed Baghdad and the country’s Shia-dominated southern provinces.

When Allawi’s government failed to get a vote of confidence in the parliament, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, the current Prime Minister, was tasked with forming a government. Al-Kadhimi also appointed Hantoush to head the Ministry of Electricity.

In both instances, Hantoush was supported by the Sairoon Alliance, which explains his prompt resignation after Sadr withdrew his support from the minister.

The new candidates for the post of Minister of Electricity have not yet been announced. Traditionally, candidates are chosen by the political party that claims the cabinet spot.

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