CAIRO - Iraqi Prime Minister-designate Adnan Zurfi presented his agenda Saturday to Parliament as government security forces clashed with protesters defying a government-imposed curfew. More than a dozen Iraqi police reportedly were wounded when protesters in Nasiriya threw gasoline bombs at police, who were firing tear gas at them.
A long cortege of vehicles Saturday drove through the streets of the southern city, honking car horns to defy the curfew. Iraqi state TV had earlier showed security forces stopping vehicles and taking the temperatures of drivers to detect coronavirus cases.
Amateur video showed Iraqi security forces shooting at dozens of protesters, who appeared to play cat-and-mouse with them late Friday in the streets of Nasiriya. Protesters appeared to light fires and throw gasoline bombs in response to government fire and volleys of tear gas. Several dozen police and protesters reportedly were injured.
A young protester complained in an amateur video posted on social media that he had to wear a face mask to stop choking from the heavy rounds of tear gas being fired by security forces.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister-designate Adnan Zurfi presented his government's expected agenda Saturday to Parliament. It is not clear when Parliament will schedule a debate to approve the new government amid the chaos from the coronavirus crisis. Zurfi has until April 16 to form a new government and present it to parliament for approval.
Eight pro-Iranian Shi'ite political parties issued a statement Saturday in opposition to Zurfi, claiming he was the "candidate of the CIA." The same eight parties also threatened to attack U.S. forces in Iraq. U.S. coalition forces have handed over a number of bases to the Iraqi military in recent days.
Analysts on Arab media pointed out that Zurfi needed 156 votes in Parliament to win approval for his government. Despite opposition from large Shi'ite blocs, including the Fateh Alliance of Hadi al-Ameri and Dowlat al-Qanoun of former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, Zurfi appears to have scattered support from some Shi'ite members of parliament, and overwhelming support from Sunni and Kurdish parties.
Analyst Iyad al-Anbar told Saudi-owned al-Arabiya TV that "the Shi'ite camp appears to be divided over Zurfi's nomination, despite the negative noises that they are making about him." He says Zurfi's nomination "may scrape through parliament if just 100 Shi'ite lawmakers support him, given the strong support for him by Sunni and Kurdish MPs."
Zurfi told Sky News Arabia that "Iraq is facing a catastrophe" due to falling global oil prices, "and that it may not be able to pay all government salaries due to the shortfall."
The government is also facing a major financial drain from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Most of the Iraqi budget comes from oil exports, and oil prices have been at historical lows.