Iranian-backed Shia militia member withdraws candidacy for Iraq’s Minister of Culture
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A candidate for the pro-Iran Shia Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia on Monday announced the withdrawal of his candidacy for the post of Iraq’s Minister of Culture, saying another candidate would replace him.
Asaib Ahl al-Haq is one of the militia factions within the Hashd al-Shaabi, also known as Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), supported by Tehran. The militia has a political wing, al-Fatih (Conquest), which participated in Iraq’s May parliamentary election and came in the second place with 48 seats.
The withdrawal of the militia’s candidate, Hassan al-Rubaie, came as Iraqi lawmakers began collecting signatures to decrease the number of ministries in Iraq’s new government, headed by Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi. Over the past weeks, Abdul-Mahdi has been seeking to complete the formation of his cabinet.
“Today, another candidate will be presented for this position. I wish him success in serving the cultural centers of Iraq,” Rubaie stated on his Facebook account, without naming the replacing candidate.
It is not clear whether Abdul-Mahdi would succeed in filling out the available positions in his cabinet any time soon in light of a heated debate in Baghdad over candidates who will hold the remaining number of ministries.
Abdul Mahdi's government consists of 22 ministries, 14 of which have been filled and eight that are still vacant, including the ministries of Interior and Culture.
In the interim, the Ministry of Culture is led by Ahmed al-Obeidi, who was elected by parliament last month as the Minister of Youth and Sports.
Rumors among Iraqis about Obeidi’s affiliation with al-Qaeda and his involvement in sectarian violence in the country have raised concerns about the current minister, but his supporters have denied all allegations.
Iraqi lawmakers say they plan to sack Obeidi over the claims, as well as Communications Minister Naeem al-Rubaie on charges of belonging to the former Baathist Party.
The remaining ministers were supposed to be elected on Oct. 6, but disagreement among lawmakers have delayed the votes.
Editing by Nadia Riva