The speaker of Iraq’s parliament has said the government should resign and hold early elections after a string of attacks ripped through the country.
On Monday, Osama al-Nujaifi, a Sunni and leading member of the secular, Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc, which has long been at odds with Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, demanded that the government resign, reports the AFP news agency.
Nujaifi said the government should be replaced by a smaller cabinet of independent figures, who would not stand in the next elections, and he called on the electoral commission to prepare for early polls and for parliament to then be dissolved.
The initiative is aimed at “national reconciliation and maintaining the gains of democracy,” as well as “sparing the country from the spectre of civil war and sectarian strife,” a statement from Nujaifi’s office said.
Iraq’s next parliamentary elections are scheduled in 2014.
Ali Mussawi, Maliki’s spokesman, said the premier supported dissolving parliament, but that the legislature must go before the government.
“We support dissolving the parliament,” Mussawi told the AFP news agency.
But he said the order suggested by Nujaifi was “unconstitutional,” and that the appropriate procedure was for parliament to be dissolved and the current government to continue in a caretaker role until new elections are held.
Nujaifi’s comments came as five car bombs exploded in public areas in predominantly Shia cities and districts in central and southern Iraq, killing 25 civilians and wounding 97, officials said.
Police said two bombs exploded in the town of Amara in Missan province, killing 15 people and wounding another 45.
One of the bombs went off near a police station and the other one near a market
In the city of Diwaniya, a bomb in a parked car exploded near a restaurant, killing four civilians and wounding 25 others, according to police.
Hours later, another car bomb went off in the revered Shia city of Karbala, killing three civilians and wounding 12 others, police said.
A car bomb also ripped through a Shia neighbourhood in the otherwise predominantly Sunni town of Mahmoudiya, south of Baghdad, killing three and wounding 15, local police said.
Earlier in the morning an attack by gunmen killed two soldiers north of Mosul, capital of Nineveh province. Another two soldiers were wounded.
Monday’s explosions were the latest in a string of attacks across the country.
On Saturday, gunmen killed 10 people in Iraq, including five soldiers near the main Sunni protest camp west of Baghdad, in a wave of violence that has raised fears the country faces a new round of sectarian bloodshed.
The attack on the army intelligence soldiers in Ramadi drew a quick response from the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose Shia-led government has been the target of rising Sunni anger over perceived mistreatment.
Iraqi officials have repeatedly claimed that armed groups, such as al-Qaeda in Iraq and supporters of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s regime, have infiltrated the Sunni demonstrations.
“I call upon the peaceful protesters to expel the criminals targeting military and police,” al-Maliki said in a statement posted on his official website.
Members of Iraq’s Muslim Sunni minority have been rallying for the past four months in several Iraqi cities to protest against what they describe as unfair treatment.
Tensions increased earlier this week when fighting broke out in the northern town of Hawija during a security crackdown on a protest encampment.