The deadlock in parliament between opponents and supporters of Iraq’s Prime Minister Haidar Abadi was temporarily overcome when lawmakers were able to create a quorum and vote on a partial list of the premier’s new cabinet. On April 26, 170-180 members of parliament met, confirmed that Salim Jabouri was still the speaker, and approved five new ministers submitted by Abadi. Those were Ali Ghani al-Mubarak for Health, Hassan al-Janabi for Water, Wafa Jaffar al-Mahadawi for Labor, Abdul Razaq Al-Aysa for Higher Education, and Ali Dishar for Electricity. Over one hundred MPs had been conducting a sit in, and voted out Jabouri earlier, but the Speaker has claimed that was illegal. They tried to disrupt the session shouting and throwing water bottles, which was led by members of former Premier Nouri al-Maliki’s wing of State of Law. They were successful in driving the other lawmakers out of the main parliament room into an alternate location, but they could not stop the proceedings. There was talk about the opposition lawmakers trying to form a permanent block, and they were also going to court over legality of the session. The fact that they were not able to stop the vote however was a major defeat for them after they had been able to disrupt the government for several days. As for the rest of the new cabinet there are still talks going on amongst the ruling parties, and disagreements. On the other hand, Moqtada al-Sadr called off his demonstrations outside the Green Zone with a spokesman saying that the vote on the ministers was a positive first step, but more was needed.
Abadi’s changes have threatened the entire political system in Iraq. As Mustafa Habib pointed out in Niqash, Abadi’s proposal for new ministers has caused all kinds of splits within the government, especially amongst the Shiite parties. State of Law was divided between pro-Badi and pro-Maliki factions, and Sadr’s Ahrar bloc and the Supreme Council’s Mutawin came down on different sides of the vote against Speaker Jabouri even though they were in an alliance beforehand. More importantly, the premier’s suggestion of a technocratic set of ministers threatens not only the quotas that determine who gets what public offices, but the elites’ control over the government. The ministries are the main way the parties rule by doling out patronage and stealing from the public coffers to enrich themselves. The new cabinet would be loyal to Abadi instead of the lists, which would dramatically change the power dynamic in Baghdad. It was quite an accomplishment then to get five ministers approved, although the way talks are progressing other cabinet members maybe partisan in order to get approved.
AIN, “Deputy of the session: Maliki wing stirred chaos to prevent the passing of ministerial cabinet,” 4/26/16
- “Fatlawi Sayadi squatting and throwing bottles of water to disrupt the cabinet reshuffle,” 4/26/16
- “Urgent Jabouri threatening legal action against the deputies that violated the majority rules of procedure,” 4/26/16
Habib, Mustafa, “Chaos in Baghdad: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Reasons Why Real political Reform Is Impossible In Iraq,” Niqash, 4/21/16
Iraq News Network, “Parliament sit-ins offer an appeal to the Federal Court for Parliament’s session yesterday,” 4/27/16
Iraq Oil Report, “UPDATE: Chaotic Parliament confirms five new ministers,” 4/26/16
Al Mada, “Abadi flirts with coalition with Allawi to pass his plans for list of ministries,” 4/22/16
- “House sit-ins resort to reference after the withdrawal of some of their colleagues following threats by the blocs,” 4/17/16
- “Parliament ends session and votes on closed envelope ministers .. And Abadi promises more changes in two days,” 4/26/16
Morris, Loveday and Salim, Mustafa, “Thousands of protesters threaten to storm Iraq’s parliament,” Washington Post, 4/26/16
National Iraqi News Agency, “A Parliamentary Source: Some MPs Tried To Attack Abadi When Attending To Parliament,” 4/26/16
New Sabah, “Opposition front forming in parliament with about 120 deputies to change the performance of the legislature,” 4/27/16