The non-partisan protesters streamed into western Baghdad’s Al-Nusoor Square on Friday, brandishing banners and Iraqi flags to demand a complete political overhaul.
Friday’s mobilisation follows nearly 11 months of paralysis that has left the country without a new government, prime minister or president, with Shia factions disagreeing on forming a coalition since elections last October.
Demonstrators shouted the Arab Spring slogan “People want the fall of the regime”.
Clashes between supporters of powerful Shia scholar Muqtada al-Sadr and rival factions earlier this week turned Baghdad’s Green Zone – home to government buildings and embassies – into a battlefield.
At least 30 al-Sadr supporters were killed in nearly 24 hours of clashes that erupted on Monday after his supporters stormed the government offices.
Despite Iraq’s oil wealth, many citizens are mired in poverty, and some 35 percent of young people are unemployed, according to the United Nations.
The country is also blighted by power cuts and crumbling public services and now faces water shortages and drought.