Political divisions prolong Iraq’s political crisis

Iraqis continued to protest following postponement of the confidence vote, despite a government order closing all public spaces
Sunday 01/03/2020
Iraqis stand outside parliament building, or Council of Representatives, in Baghdad's Green Zone on February 27. (AFP)
Iraqis stand outside parliament building, or Council of Representatives, in Baghdad's Green Zone on February 27. (AFP)

LONDON - For the second time in 48 hours, the Iraqi parliament on February 29 postponed a parliamentary vote of confidence for the proposed government of Prime Minister-designate Mohammed Allawi, reflecting deep disagreements that have prolonged Iraq’s months-long political crisis.

Iraqi Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi said the vote, delayed previously because of lack of a quorum, would take place March 1.

The parliamentary session could not convene February 27 when Sunni and Kurdish lawmakers who opposed Allawi’s ministerial nominees boycotted, Iraqi state TV reported. Only 120 MPs attended the session, 45 fewer than the number needed for a quorum.

If Allawi cannot get his cabinet through parliament by the constitutional deadline of March 2, Iraqi President Barham Salih would have to appoint a new prime minister-designate.

Allawi needs a simple majority of the parliament’s 329 members to pass his cabinet but, given the complex confessional nature of Iraqi politics, he may face trouble reaching that figure.

Before the failed parliamentary session, Allawi tweeted: “I heard there is a plan to prevent the cabinet from receiving confidence from the parliament to continue corruption and thefts because the ministries will be headed by independent and impartial ministers. They are paying money to the members of the parliament to fulfil their scheme.”

He published his government programme February 25, promising an ambitious agenda of economic reform and anti-corruption efforts. He pledged to call early elections free from “the influence of money, weapons and foreign interference” and investigate the death of demonstrators, a measure meant to reassure protesters.

However, many remained sceptical, not just among Iraq’s political parties but also Iraqi protesters whose nationwide demonstrations forced Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi to resign in November.

The delay prolongs a political and domestic deadlock after months of anti-government protests in which more than 500 people have been killed.

Iraqis continued to protest following postponement of the vote, despite a government order closing all public spaces in the country over fears of coronavirus infection.

Iraq’s Kurds and Sunnis who remain sceptical about Allawi, who enjoys the full backing of Iraq’s two main Shia blocs — the Popular Mobilisation Forces’ Fatah alliance and Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s Sairoon Alliance.

“The steps taken by Mr Allawi so far have not earned the trust of many Iraqi parties and communities. Therefore, we ask that his work plan and agenda be revised in a way that the future government addresses and meets the demands of all Iraqi communities,” Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani said on February 24.

The powerful Sunni Iraqi Forces Alliance, affiliated with Halbousi, also expressed concern about the independence of Allawi’s proposed cabinet.

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