Iraq MPs approve five new ministers after long delay

Iraq MPs approve five new ministers after long delay

BAGHDAD – Agence France-Presse
Iraq MPs approve five new ministers after long delay

Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament Salim al-Jabouri speaks during an interview with Reuters in Baghdad, January 7, 2016. REUTERS photo

Iraqi parliament on Aug. 15 approved five new ministers after months of delay and repeated setbacks to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s efforts to replace the cabinet, the speaker’s office said.

Lawmakers signed off on Abadi’s nominees to head the ministries of oil, transport, higher education, housing and construction, and water resources, but rejected the nominee for trade minister.

Four of the five ministers were the same as had been approved by lawmakers earlier in the year at a session that was later scrapped by a court ruling that dealt a blow to Abadi.

The premier announced his intention to introduce technocratic ministers into the cabinet in February, but faced significant opposition from powerful parties that rely on control of ministries for patronage and funds.
Sessions on the cabinet issue were repeatedly overshadowed by antics in parliament, including a sit-in by MPs, verbal and physical altercations, and a vote to sack the speaker that resulted in two rival claimants to the post.

Lawmakers eventually approved several of Abadi’s nominees but disruptive members were barred from attending the session, leading it to be invalidated by a court along with the one in which MPs voted to remove the speaker.

Populist Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr also took up the call for government of technocratic, independent ministers, organizing repeated protests calling for that change and other reforms.

His supporters, angered by parliamentary inaction, broke into Baghdad’s Green Zone during several protests, storming parliament and temporarily occupying the building on one occasion, and breaking into the premier’s office on another.