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Anti-Government Protests Continue in Iraq

Protesters go through security inspection as they arrive to Tahrir Square, during ongoing protests, in Baghdad, Iraq, Dec. 25, 2019.

Anti-government protests in Iraq continued on Wednesday as demonstrators rejected a new prime minister nominee and mourned the death of a renowned activist.

Prominent activist Thaer al-Tayeb 's car was hit by a mysterious explosion on December 15 and he died of his wounds in the following days, hospital officials announced Tuesday. The announcement was met by rallies in the southern city of Diwaniyah, where protesters attacked some offices of Iran-backed political parties in the city.

Anti-government rallies have rocked the capital and the Shiite-majority south since October with people protesting against corruption, poor services and a lack of jobs. Protests, which had been in somewhat of a lull, were renewed in vigor after Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi resigned last month.

Protesters counted a win this week when parliament voted to approve an electoral reform law which would institute a first-past-the-post contest within electoral districts, in line with protesters' demands. But many in the opposition say there is still a long way to go.

President Barham Salih and parliament have missed several deadlines to appoint a new prime minister following Mahdi's resignation. Mahdi and his government agreed to stay on in a caretaker role until a new prime minister is approved.

Mahdi's resignation failed to satisfy anti-government protesters who have said it is not enough for a new prime minister to take over. They are demanding changes to the entire political system imposed after the U.S. invasion in 2003, which they say is corrupt, inept and does little to help impoverished Iraqis despite the nation’s oil wealth.

At least 460 people have died and tens of thousands of others have been wounded since the demonstrations erupted in October in Baghdad and in Shiite-majority areas in southern Iraq.