ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan24) – Shia cleric leader Muqtada al-Sadr submitted a list of nominees for all ministerial positions to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to form a new cabinet.
Sadr asked President Abadi on Friday to announce the new cabinet in one day, but Abadi asked for a one-week extension.
On March 26, Sadr recommended three Kurds for ministerial positions in the new technocrat cabinet, though without the consent of Kurdish representatives in the Iraqi parliament.
Among the Kurds proposed by Sadr were Amin Mamedam was nominated for Ministry of Justice, Twana Faiq Hoshyar for Ministry of Commerce, and Azad Hassan Salam for Ministry of Water Resources.
Meanwhile, Abadi stated in a press conference on Saturday that he will announce the cabinet reshuffle this week. “This is a small part of the reforms,” he said.
Iraqi MPs approved President Abadi’s proposed cabinet on Sep 8, 2014 and Sadr’s al-Ahrar bloc maintains three cabinet posts and 34 seats in the parliament.
The five major Kurdish parties that have representatives in the Iraqi parliament got together before the meeting with Iraqi Parliament Speaker Saleem al-Jibouri on Sunday and afterwards held a press conference in Baghdad announcing that they have reached an agreement.
The head of Kurdistan Democratic Party bloc in the Iraqi parliament, Khasro Goran, told reporters that "The unity of the Kurdish parties in Baghdad is more important than anything else," adding, "Kurdistan's interest and participation in Iraq's political process are also important for us."
Head of Change Movement bloc, Hoshyar Abdullah, stated that Kurds will not accept the nomination of anyone outside of the Kurdish parties. “We will not allow the Iraqi government to repeat the mistakes of previous regimes. Individuals cannot be appointed to [these] ministerial positions under the pretext of Kurds' participation in the government,” Abdullah told reporters.
“As Kurds' representatives, we want to protect the interests of our people,” Abdullah said.
In response to the suggested ministerial nominees by Muqtada al-Sadr, Ala Talabani, Head of Patriotic Union bloc said that they will not accept the appointment of ministers outside of political parties.
The Kurdish political parties stated that if Kurdistan Region's demands are not met in the new cabinet, then they will consider withdrawing from the political process. “All options are open for us, including not participating in the new cabinet, becoming the opposition, or withdrawing from the whole political process,” Talabani said during the press conference.
SIT-IN AT BAGHDAD'S GREEN ZONE GATES
"Beloved protesters, I will enter the Green Zone by myself and (my escorts) only. I sit inside the Green Zone, and you sit at its gates. None of you should move," Sadr told a mass gathering of his supporters in Baghdad’s heavily-fortified area on Sunday.
Sadr urged Prime Minister Abadi to move ahead with a plan announced more than six weeks ago to change the current cabinet and replace it with independent technocrats in an attempt to tackle systemic political patronage that has abetted division.
PM Abadi is concerned about Shia street protests that might spin out of control and endanger Iraq's security since the army is focused on fighting Islamic State (IS) both in Anbar and Nineveh provinces.
Rebwar Taha, a Kurdish MP in the Iraqi parliament told Kurdistan24 that “What is happening in Baghdad is [part of] a Shia rivalry and power struggle; it has nothing to do with reform or formation of a new cabinet.”
“We [as Kurds] do not want to be part of this conflict,” Taha added.
On March 4, Sadr called for the overthrow of the Shia-led "government of corruption” in a speech delivered to approximately 200,000 people who rallied at the entrance to the heavily fortified Green Zone in central Baghdad.
This move was the biggest show of opposition to Prime Minister Haider Abadi, who struggles to implement reforms in the current cabinet due to pressures from Shia counterparts.
On Sunday, the Shia National Alliance--the largest bloc in the Iraqi parliament--held a meeting with the prime minister to discuss political developments.
The proposed reshuffle is expected to face stiff resistance from major political blocs, especially among Shia political parties, according to several Kurdish politicians.
Reporting by Baxtiyar Goran
Editing by Ava Homa and Benjamin Kweskin