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Political blocs aim to scrap Iraq PM cabinet nominees

AFP , Sunday 10 Apr 2016
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi (Reuters)
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Iraqi political blocs want to replace some or all of the premier's cabinet nominees, a move likely to continue the system of party-affiliated ministers he wanted changed, officials said Sunday.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said that "fundamental" change to the cabinet is needed so that it includes "professional and technocratic figures and academics".

He presented a list of candidates for a slimmed-down government to parliament last week, but has faced major opposition from powerful political parties that rely on control of ministries for patronage and funds.

At least two of Abadi's nominees withdrew, and his cabinet reform efforts seem set for further setbacks.

"We presented three candidates and the other blocs will present their candidates to the government," said Hamid Maalleh, the spokesman for the Citizens' Bloc, a major Shiite grouping in parliament.

"Most of the blocs want the nomination to be through them," Maalleh said, adding that the aim is to hold a vote on the new cabinet on Tuesday.

"Every component is looking to have a presence in the cabinet," said Niyazi Oghlu, a parliamentary official.

Oghlu said that the finishing touches were still being put to a new list of candidates, and confirmed that a vote is to take place on Tuesday.

Samira al-Mussawi of State of Law, the largest Shiite parliamentary bloc, said: "The new candidates are not the same names proposed by the prime minister."

And Ammar Toma, the head of the Shiite Fadhila bloc, said that a special parliamentary committee "gave its assessment to not approve these nominations", referring to those presented by Abadi.

Toma said that the Kurdistan Alliance, made up of Iraqi Kurdish lawmakers, had yet to submit candidates, but two of the main Kurdish parties had already rejected Abadi's nominees.

"Any change in federal government institutions must ensure the share for the Kurds, and the Kurdistan political leadership will determine who represents Kurdistan," the two parties said in a statement.

Salem al-Essawi, a lawmaker from Ittihad al-Quwa, the main Sunni bloc in parliament, said that it had not put forward candidates as "we have (other) priorities" when it comes to reform.

Powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr organised a two-week sit-in at Baghdad's highly fortified Green Zone, where the government is headquartered, demanding a new technocratic cabinet.

Sadr called off the sit-in after Abadi presented his nominees last week, and the Sadrists are the main political force backing Abadi's proposed cabinet changes.

"We demand that there be technocratic, independent candidates, and the most important is that the candidates be independent," Sadrist lawmaker Zainab al-Tai said.

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