Iraqi lawmakers protest after vote on new Cabinet is delayed

AP News
Posted: Apr 12, 2016 3:31 PM
Iraqi lawmakers protest after vote on new Cabinet is delayed

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraqi lawmakers staged a protest inside the country's parliament on Tuesday after a vote on new Cabinet nominees proposed by the prime minister was postponed earlier in the day.

Haider al-Abadi presented the Cabinet reshuffle after weeks of pressure from influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and thousands of his followers who staged weekly rallies in Baghdad.

After the vote was postponed, dozens of lawmakers refused to leave the parliament building's main hall, demanding the resignation of the country's top political leadership and an end to the current system of government dominated by powerful political blocs determined by sectarian quotas, according to video posted to social media and lawmakers who took part in the protest.

"We will remain inside the parliament until our demands are met," Sunni lawmaker Mishan al-Jabouri posted to his Facebook page along with footage of the sit in.

After night fell, the lawmakers remained inside parliament in an unusual sit-in. The protesting lawmakers were representatives from across the country's political spectrum, reflecting the current broad opposition to Iraqi political leadership and frustration with the slow pace of reforms that are meant to address corruption and mismanagement.

Al-Abadi last month proposed a new lineup of Cabinet ministers and reduced the number of ministerial seats from 21 to 16. He left the incumbent ministers of defense and interior in place due to the ongoing war against the Islamic State group in the country's north and west.

The political crisis has rocked Baghdad and put a significant burden on al-Abadi, threatening to become a more destabilizing factor for the country, even as authorities wage war against the Islamic State group.

The measure saw instant opposition from Iraq's political blocs, which rely on patronage systems to remain in power. Several of the Cabinet nominees subsequently withdrew from the list, claiming they didn't desire the posts.

Iraq is grappling with entrenched corruption, exacerbated by a deepening financial crisis and the fight against the IS group. Many Iraqis blame corruption and mismanagement for squandering profits when the price of oil was high.