ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi has presented a series of solutions to resolve an ongoing dispute over vacant ministerial posts in a letter addressed to Parliamentary Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi.
The letter comes as the Iraqi parliament intends to hold a meeting on Tuesday to vote, after weeks of delays and unsuccessful sessions, on the remaining candidates for Abdul-Mahdi’s cabinet. The PM has said the stalls have hindered efforts to provide services to the public.
The new cabinet consists of 22 ministries, 14 of which were voted on in October. Eight are yet to be filled, most notably the key security positions of defense and interior.
Among the problematic names still put forward is that of Falih al-Fayyadh for the Minister of Interior, a candidate presented by the pro-Iran al-Fatih Alliance led by Hadi al-Amiri, which heads al-Bina Coalition, one of two major factions in parliament.
Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has repeatedly stated his opposition to Fayyadh’s nomination, or that of any politically-affiliated candidate, to important posts. He has also called for independents to be placed in those ministries.
Sadr’s Sairoon Alliance won the May 12 elections and is at the head of the Reform and Reconstruction parliamentary faction, which, along with Amiri’s Bina, stands as one of the two major forces within parliament.
Along with the Shias’ internal dispute over the post of Interior Minister, major Sunni factions are in a row over the position of Defense Minister.
Abdul-Mahdi suggested that the two major blocs accept to vote on the other five or six vacant ministries and he “agreed” to postpone the rest, referring to the posts of defense and interior.
In addition to the two aforementioned posts, the ministers of planning, higher education, immigration, culture, and justice, have yet to be voted on.
The other possible post that the prime minister hinted he would be willing to delay voting on is the Minister of Justice, to which the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) maintains must go to a candidate of theirs, Khalid Shwani. The current nominee is favored by most Kurdish parties including the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), holder of 25 seats in parliament.
Abdul-Mahdi also said that the two major blocs need to cooperate to either approve existing candidates or present new ones.
Baghdad has “serious duties to perform” to respond to the “people’s demands,” and the delays have “hindered the ability of the government to implement the agenda” of the PM “in accordance with his ambitious schedule,” Abdul-Mahdi said in the letter.
“So I beg you to motivate everyone to reach a consensus or vote,” he argued.
It is not clear whether parliament on Tuesday can expect to have a quorum or successfully vote, partially or fully, on the remainder of the PM’s cabinet.
The ongoing differences highlight the difficulties Abdul-Mahdi faces as he attempts to form his now two-month-old government.
Editing by Nadia Riva