Iraqi par­lia­ment mem­bers set to vote on new govern­ment

The Pak Banker - - International -

BAGHDAD: Iraq may fi­nally have a new govern­ment Tues­day af­ter months of po­lit­i­cal deadlock fol­low­ing the in­con­clu­sive March 7 par­lia­men­tary elec­tion stalled eco­nomic devel­op­ment and raised fears of re­newed sec­tar­ian vi­o­lence.

Iraqi law­mak­ers were sched­uled to vote in the af­ter­noon on a wob­bly coali­tion govern­ment led by Prime Min­is­ter Nouri al-Ma­liki that in­cludes rep­re­sen­ta­tives of all the coun­try's po­lit­i­cal and sec­tar­ian fac­tions - Shi­ites, Sun­nis and Kurds. The in­cum­bent premier, him­self a Shi­ite, suc­ceeded in end­ing months of limbo by pulling mem­bers from all sides of the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum into a list he pro­posed on Mon­day.

But se­ri­ous chal­lenges re­main.

Nearly a third of the min­is­ters put forth by al-Ma­liki are only to be act­ing min­is­ters since he and fol­low­ers of anti- Amer­i­can cleric Muq­tada alSadr - a key part of al-Ma­liki's coali­tion - couldn't agree on who should take many of the posts al­lo­cated to al-Sadr's Iran-backed move­ment.

The min­istries still to be de­cided in­clude the de­fense, in­te­rior and in­tel­li­gence posts which are closely watched in Iraq for any sign that they are be­ing abused by one side or an­other in the coun­try's sec­tar­ian di­vide as the U.S. mil­i­tary pre­pares to with­draw from Iraq en­tirely in a year's time.

Al-Ma­liki is ex­pected to serve as the act­ing min­is­ter for those posts to give law­mak­ers more time to en­sure they are filled with po­lit­i­cally in­de­pen­dent of­fi­cials.

The law­mak­ers will vote on the 29 names that al-Ma­liki sub­mit­ted Mon­day for per­ma­nent Cabi­net posts, said Kur­dish law­maker Khalid Sh­wani. The 13 act­ing min­is­ters do not need to be ap­proved by par­lia­ment, said Omar al-Mash­hadani, a spokesman for the par­lia­ment speaker. But par­lia­ment will have to ap­prove their names at a later date when they are fi­nal­ized, he said. The govern­ment is even­tu­ally to be made up of 42 min­is­ters.

Law­mak­ers will also vote to cre­ate a new coun­cil over­see­ing for­eign pol­icy and se­cu­rity re­lated is­sues to be headed by al-Ma­liki's Sun­ni­backed ri­val Ayad Allawi, said a mem­ber of Allawi's Iraqiya coali­tion, Jaber al-Jaberi.

The coun­cil is con­sid­ered a way to keep the Sun­nis and Allawi, who is a Shi­ite, in the new govern­ment, but it's still not clear ex­actly how much power the coun­cil will re­ally have. The Iraqiya al­liance nar­rowly de­feated al-Ma­liki at the March elec­tion, gar­ner­ing 91 seats to al-Ma­liki's 89 seats. But af­ter months of wran­gling, Iraqiya could never find enough sup­port to form a ma­jor­ity govern­ment.

Iraqiya only re­cently dropped its long-stand­ing de­mand that Allawi should have the first shot at form­ing the govern­ment. Allawi's con­ces­sion came af­ter he was as­sured that Sun­nis will not be ex­cluded from the Shi­ite-led govern­ment.

It was al-Sadr's sup­port - in a deal bro­kered by Iran - that largely en­abled al-Ma­liki to build the frame­work for a ma­jor­ity coali­tion.

The Sadrist al­liance holds 40 of par­lia­ment's 325 seats. Their part­ner­ship with alMa­liki has al­ways been ten­u­ous, and came as a sur­prise be­cause the two had been en­e­mies since 2008 when the prime min­is­ter launched an of­fen­sive crush­ing al-Sadr's mili­tia in east­ern Baghdad and the south­ern city of Basra. De­spite their ob­jec­tions, a se­nior Sadrist law­maker, Hakim al-Zamili, said Tues­day that they will sup­port al-Ma­liki's pro­posed Cabi­net. -Ap

LONDON: Bri­tain's Busi­ness Sec­re­tary Vince Cable ar­rives at Trea­sury in, cen­tral London. -Reuters

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