Iraq's parliament pushes back against PM over reforms

Assembly votes to bar government from passing key reforms without its approval amid anger over PM's unilateral actions.

    Senior officials have said they are not consulted about reforms and often learn about them through the media [Thaier al-Sudani/Reuters]
    Senior officials have said they are not consulted about reforms and often learn about them through the media [Thaier al-Sudani/Reuters]

    Iraq's parliament voted unanimously to bar the government from passing important reforms without its approval in an effort to curb the power of Prime Minister Haider al-Abbadi amid discontent over his leadership style, politicians have said.

    The assembly acted on Monday after Abbadi unilaterally enacted reforms in August that it deemed a violation of the constitution, including his dismissal of the vice presidents and deputy prime ministers and cuts to salaries of government employees.

    Some of the measures have been implemented, while others appear to have stalled, with Iraq's three vice presidents remaining in place.

    "What we have warned against in our letter to Abbadi last week of taking unilateral reforms now came to an end," an MP, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Reuters news agency.

    "Under this resolution no more absolute authorities for the prime minister."

    Last week in a letter, more than 60 members of Iraq's ruling State of Law coalition threatened to withdraw parliamentary support for Abbadi's reforms if he did not respond to their demands for wider consultation.

    Many of the politicians who signed the letter are supporters of Abbadi's predecessor, Nouri al-Maliki.

    Slow to act

    When he took office in September 2014, Abbadi was seen as a consensus builder who could heal divisions between Iraq's Shia Muslims, Sunnis and non-Arab Kurds that had sharpened during Maliki's tenure.

    But senior officials have said they are not consulted about Abbadi's reforms and often learn about them through the media

    Inside Story: Iraq's plan for political reform
    Speaking to Al Jazeera, Saad Jawad, a professor of political science and a senior fellow at the Middle East Centre at the London School of Economics, said Abbadi had failed since August to take constructive measures to enforce the reforms in time. 

    "Unfortunately, he did not take advantage of the support the Iraqis gave to him. He kept on speaking without taking measures. This is his problem," said Jawad. "Gradually, his enemies started to undermine his move." 

    Growing political tensions could undermine efforts to tackle an economic crisis and form a united front against fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), who pose the biggest security threat to Iraq since a US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.

    Poor morale in the armed forces was a significant reason why ISIL fighters swept through parts of the country last year, and then proceeded to seize about a third of the country.

    "I don't think Abbadi has succeeded in presenting himself, or his government, as a united one able to fight the Islamic State," said Jawad. 

    Abbadi announced the reform campaign in August after protests erupted over fraud and poor water and electricity services in Iraq, a leading OPEC oil producer.

    The steps are intended to scrap senior political offices that have become a vehicle for patronage for some of the most powerful people in Iraq and combat incompetence which has undermined the battle against groups such as ISIL.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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