Iraqi parliament members set to vote on new government
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