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Protest by Iraqi MPs Blocks Vote on New Cabinet

FILE - Members of parliament, who held a sit-in overnight inside the parliament building, gather during a news conference, in Baghdad, Iraq, April 13, 2016. On Tuesday, some lawmakers blocked a vote on a new technocratic cabinet.

Some Iraqi lawmakers interrupted a parliamentary session on Tuesday impeding a planned vote to decide on a new technocratic cabinet, one made up of policy experts.

The protesters, many allied with former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, threw water bottles towards his successor Haider al-Abadi, chanting demands for his removal.

They also demanded the removal of President Fuad Masum and Speaker Salim al-Jabouri.

Abadi has called for the government to be run by experts, rather than politically affiliated ministers, but political parties have pushed back on the proposed changes in an apparent effort to maintain the patronage system they rely on to stay in power.

Abadi also attended the session on Tuesday but members of parliament prevented him from speaking.

A new session was later held at another hall which the protesting lawmakers were prohibited to enter. As a result, the legitimacy of the session will most likely be challenged.

Last week, Abadi called for parliament to put aside its differences and do its job. Of the original list of 14 cabinet appointees, named at the beginning of the month, just four remain on a new list released Tuesday.

The nominees for water resources, health and transportation stayed the same, while a fourth nominee from the original list became a candidate for the planning ministry.

In February, Abadi called for “fundamental” change to the government and called for the inclusion of academic and professional figures in the cabinet. Since then he has proposed several reform measures that have been delayed or otherwise undermined by parties and politicians with vested interests in keeping the current system running.

The political crisis comes as Iraqi forces are fighting to regain more ground from the Islamic State group. Both the United Nations and the U.S. have warned the political crisis could undermine the fight against the jihadists.