By Ammar Karim and Salam Faraj
April 12, 2016
Iraq’s premier presented a new list of cabinet nominees on Tuesday that angered some lawmakers, who criticized it as perpetuating the system of ministries being distributed according to political quotas.
Parliament descended into chaos after the session was postponed to Thursday, with lawmakers shaking fists and chanting against political quotas and then beginning a sit-in.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has called for a government of technocrats to replace the current party-affiliated ministers, but has faced major resistance from powerful parties that rely on control of ministries for patronage and funds.
He presented a list of 13 cabinet nominees to parliament on March 31, but lawmakers later said that the political blocs would nominate other candidates, a process that apparently resulted in the current list of names.
Abadi gave the new list of candidates to parliament speaker Salim al-Juburi, then met with him and leaders of the political blocs, according to posts on their official Twitter accounts.
But with major disagreement over the proposed list of candidates, the session was postponed until Thursday, Juburi’s office said.
Lawmakers chanted “The people want the fall of the quotas!” after the session ended, according to video shot inside parliament.
The phrase is a variation on “The people want the fall of the regime”, which was chanted at Arab Spring protests against despots across the region.
More than 100 MPs then began a sit-in inside parliament to protest against the delay of the session, lawmakers Haider al-Kaabi and Iskander Witwit told AFP by telephone.
“We announced an open sit-in inside parliament because of the postponement of the session until Thursday,” Kaabi said, adding that they are demanding an emergency session on Wednesday.
According to the new list of 14 names, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, most of Abadi’s original nominees did not make the second cut.
The nominees for water resources, health and transport stayed the same, while a fourth nominee from the original list became a candidate for the planning ministry.
– ‘Ministries for them’ –
The new list also includes Faleh al-Fayad, a long-time member of the Dawa party who served as national security adviser under former premier Nuri al-Maliki and then Abadi, as the nominee for foreign minister.
Sunni lawmaker Ahmed al-Juburi said that the new list is opposed by almost a third of MPs.
The MP said he had gathered 98 names of lawmakers who are against the list and who reject the “principle of (political) quotas that was agreed upon by the leaders of the blocs”.
“The blocs and the parties do not want to give up their gains and their ministries,” said Shiite MP Hassan Salem.
“They do not consider them ministries of the people as much as they consider them ministries for them,” Salem said.
And MP Zainab al-Tai, from the bloc affiliated with powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who has called for a government of technocrats, threatened a no-confidence vote in Abadi.
“We demand the formation of an independent government, and if not, we will go to withdraw confidence from Abadi’s government,” Tai said.
Abadi called in February for “fundamental” change to the cabinet so that it includes “professional and technocratic figures and academics”.
That kicked off the latest chapter in a months-long saga of Abadi proposing various reforms that parties and politicians with interests in the existing system have sought to delay or undermine.
Sadr, the scion of a powerful clerical family from the Shiite holy city of Najaf, later called for his supporters to protest and then stage a sit-in at Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, where the government is headquartered.
Sadr relented after Abadi presented his list of nominees at the end of March, calling off the sit-in.
But efforts to change the government have run up against entrenched political interests that do not want to cede the power and funds that controlling ministries confers.
Source: Space War.