Iraqi anger over power rationing turns violent

Clashes with police reported across country.

Iraq's creaking power infrastructure cannot cope with peak demand in summer.
Iraq's creaking power infrastructure cannot cope with peak demand in summer.

Angry protesters hurled stones at council offices in southern Iraq on Monday, wounding five police as they vented their anger over power rationing during the summer heat, a police official told the AFP newswire.

Anger has been growing over rationing that sees Iraqis receive power for just one hour in five in temperatures that have been topping 50 degrees Celsius across the centre and south of the country for days.

On Saturday, police opened fire to disperse a similar protest outside provincial council offices in the main southern city of Basra, killing one demonstrator and wounding two, an army commander told AFP.

The provincial council posted pictures of the latest protest and ensuing clashes, which involved hundreds of people, on its website --

They showed serried ranks of riot police with shields deployed outside the concrete and razor-wire perimeter of the headquarters compound.

Police and demonstrators alike were armed with sticks.
As the protest turned angry and volley after volley of stones rained down on officers, police resorted to water cannons to disperse the crowd.

The demonstrators, who gathered in response to a call from Shiite clerics, carried banners demanding the dismissal of Electricity Minister Karim Wahid and provincial officials, an AFP correspondent said.

Stonethrowing rioters, furious at the lack of electricity for air conditioning in temperatures that hit 54 degrees Celsius (130 Fahrenheit) in Iraq's southern oil hub on Saturday, broke virtually every window in the council building, an AFP correspondent reported.

In an interview with AFP earlier on Monday, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari warned that the Basra protest could be a harbinger of more trouble as prolonged "bickering" over who should be Iraq's new next prime minister sparks mounting discontent among ordinary people more concerned by the lack of basic services.

"What we saw in Basra on Saturday was a warning," Zebari told AFP. "It was the writing on the wall. The anger they showed was extraordinary."

Zebari said there was a risk that the ambition of politicians, including Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and former premier Iyad Allawi, was overshadowing the public's demand for nuts-and-bolts services.
"Bickering over the position of the prime minister and who will form the new government... has been one of the key impediments to progress," he said.

"There isn't much attention (being given) to the ordinary public, how they feel, how they survive during this summer heat with a lack of electricity.

"People are tired of a lack of services, lack of action and all this debate on television about government formation and positions. The public sense is one of anger and of tiredness."

Monday's protest in Nasiriyah was the second in the city against power rationing in as many days although Sunday's demonstration passed off without incident.

There have also been demonstrations over the lack of electricity in the capital Baghdad, where temperatures have hovered around 51 degrees Celsius for the past week.


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