Iraqi parliament late Tuesday approved a new election law that paves the way for greater inclusion of independent political candidates, considered a key demand for protesters.
The law ends the practice of political parties running on unified lists, which allowed them to easily win all seats in a given province. The new law will now divide Iraq's 18 provinces into multiple districts and allocate one parliamentary seat per 100,000 people.
Hundreds of thousands of anti-government protesters have called for sweeping changes to Iraq's political system, which was put in place in the wake of the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq. The protesters have blamed the system for widespread corruption and rampant unemployment.
Read more: What's behind the protests in Iraq?
'We want someone independent'
The protesters have also called for the new prime minister to be an independent candidate.
"Every hour they come up with a new candidate, but we want someone independent," said a protester near Basra. "We're ready to continue the general strike, a day, two days, three days … even a hundred years if that's what it takes."
Currently, the posts are often divided along sectarian lines, with the presidency conventionally held by a Kurdish figure while the prime minister role is generally taken up by a Shiite lawmaker.
Prominent Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr hailed the new law as a step in the right direction, saying it satisfies a key demand for protesters.
"It will get rid of all corrupt parties," al-Sadr said.
The new law also allocates at least one quarter of parliament's seats to women and establishes a quota for religious minorities, including Christians and Yazidis.
More than 400 people have been killed in heavy-handed police operations aimed at dispersing protesters in Baghdad and other areas hit by the unrest.
ls/aw (AP, dpa)