Iraq PM pro­poses abol­ish­ing vice pres­i­den­cies in re­form push

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY SI­NAN SALA­HED­DIN

Iraq’s gov­ern­ment ap­proved a wide-rang­ing re­form plan on Sun­day that would abol­ish the three vice pres­i­den­tial posts as well as the of­fice of deputy prime min­is­ter in or­der to slash spend­ing and im­prove the gov­ern­ment’s per­for­mance in the face of mass protests.

Prime Min­is­ter Haider al-Abadi’s plan, which still re­quires par­lia­men­tary ap­proval, would ef­fec­tively sack his pre­de­ces­sor, Nouri alMa­liki, who be­grudg­ingly stepped aside a year ago and was ap­pointed to the largely sym­bolic role of vice pres­i­dent. Al-Ma­liki is widely al­leged to have un­der­mined his suc­ces­sor in a bid to even­tu­ally re­turn to power, charges he de­nies.

Al- Abadi’s seven- point plan would also re­quire that a num­ber of gov­ern­ment posts be filled with po­lit­i­cal in­de­pen­dents, a move aimed at com­bat­ting en­demic cor­rup­tion in Iraq’s po­lit­i­cal sys­tem, in which many se­nior ap­point­ments are de­ter­mined by party pa­tron­age and sec­tar­ian loy­al­ties.

A year af­ter as­sum­ing of­fice fol­low­ing the Is­lamic State group’s rapid ad­vance across north­ern and western Iraq, al-Abadi is still strug­gling to com­bat a the ex­trem­ist group.

But he is now also fac­ing a wave of dis­con­tent with gov­ern­ment ser­vices. Iraqis have been suf­fer­ing through a bru­tal heat wave with fre­quent power cuts, lead­ing to mass protests even among the Shi­ite ma­jor­ity, from which the gov­ern­ment draws most of its sup­port.

Al-Abadi’s plan would re­duce spend­ing on per­sonal body­guards for of­fi­cials and trans­fer the re­spon­si­bil­ity to the In­te­rior and De­fense Min­istries, which would have their bud­gets ex­panded.

The plan also calls for the re­view of all cor­rup­tion cases by a com­mit­tee of ex­perts, with fresh tri­als for of­fi­cials sus­pected of wrong­do­ing.

Hours af­ter an­nounc­ing the plan Sun­day, the cab­i­net started an ex­tra­or­di­nary meet­ing to dis­cuss the protesters’ de­mands and the plans put forth by al-Abadi. It re­mains un­clear how much sup­port the plan will re­ceive from the coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal par­ties.

Al-Ma­liki, who served as prime min­is­ter from 2006 un­til the mid­dle of last year, was widely ac­cused of mo­nop­o­liz­ing power, turn­ing a blind eye to cor­rup­tion and staffing the mil­i­tary’s of­fi­cer corps with in­com­pe­tent loy­al­ists, lead­ing to its rapid col­lapse in the face of the IS group’s on­slaught.

He was also seen as a sec­tar­ian leader who did much to alien­ate the coun­try’s Sunni mi­nor­ity. When the IS group cap­tured Mo­sul and other cities last sum­mer many ini­tially wel­comed the ex­trem­ists as lib­er­a­tors.

Al-Ma­liki ex­pressed sup­port for the pro­posed re­forms in a brief state­ment on his web­site.

The pro­posed re­forms come two days af­ter Iraq’s most revered Shi­ite cleric, Grand Ay­a­tol­lah Ali alSis­tani, called on al-Abadi to quickly ad­dress in­ter­nal is­sues in the gov­ern­ment, in­clud­ing cor­rup­tion.

AP

Protesters chant anti-gov­ern­ment slo­gans while riot po­lice guard the pro­vin­cial coun­cil build­ing dur­ing a protest against cor­rup­tion and the lack of gov­ern­ment ser­vices and power out­age in Basra, 550 kilo­me­ters (340 miles) south­east of Bagh­dad, Fri­day, Aug. 7.

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