Iraq’s parliament has delayed a vote on new cabinet nominees presented by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi after weeks of pressure from an influential Shia leader and thousands of his followers.
Abadi presented on Tuesday a second list of candidates to parliament, resulting in the postponement of a vote planned for the same day to Thursday, state TV said.
Dozens of politicians, from both Sunni and Shia blocs, held a sit-in demonstration inside the hall of meetings of the parliament, in protest of the proposed cabinet nominees.
That list, with 15 members, includes only four names from a 14-member line-up Abadi had submitted on March 31.
The defence and interior ministers in the outgoing cabinet will remain, to keep up the momentum of the war on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
The cabinet reshuffle is supposed to be part of long-promised anti-corruption measures that Abadi needs to deliver. If he does not, he will risk weakening his government as Iraqi forces mount a campaign to recapture the northern city of Mosul from ISIL also known as ISIS.
Political blocs that control a majority in parliament were unhappy with Abadi’s initial line-up. His second was drawn from technocrats they had proposed in an effort to maintain the current party balance within the government, politicians said on Monday.
The prime minister had wanted a technocratic cabinet independent from the political class.
Critics say the politicians use a system of ethnic and sectarian quotas put in place after the US-led invasion in 2003 to amass wealth and influence.
US Secretary of State John Kerry, visiting Baghdad on Friday, urged Iraq not to let the political crisis interfere with the fight against ISIL and voiced unequivocal support for the prime minister.
Abadi proposed the new cabinet under pressure from the clergy of the Shia majority and popular discontent at the lack of basic public services, in a nation facing an economic crisis caused by falling oil prices.