Protest camps across Iraq began fracturing on Monday into separate clusters over whether to back premier-designate Mohammad Allawi, marking a pivotal point for the four-month-old movement.
Allawi, 65, launched his political career in the aftermath of the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, first as a parliamentarian and then twice as communications minister under former premier Nuri al-Maliki.
His nomination on February 1 has so far failed to quell the rallies sweeping Baghdad and the mainly-Shiite south, where young demonstrators have demanded nothing short of a total government overhaul.
Most young protesters have rejected Allawi, who was twice communications minister, as too close to the ruling elite and a product of consensus among much-reviled parties.
But powerful cleric Moqtada Sadr, who has backed the rallies and demanded reform, has both welcomed Allawi’s appointment and urged his followers to stay in the streets.
That has sparked confusion and created a rift in protest squares across Iraq between organised Sadrists and angry, leaderless youth.
Late Sunday, demonstrators opposed to Allawi’s nomination began clustering their tents closer together in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, away from those occupied by Sadrists.
“They’re split into two parts now, and there are plenty of people on both sides.
I’m worried about a clash,” one long-time protester in Tahrir stated.