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Angry clashes force Iraqi PM to cancel Cabinet vote

  • Wed, 05 Dec 2018 10:25
Suadad Al-Salhy
Wed, 2018-12-05 00:02

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s Parliament descended into chaos on Tuesday as MPs clashed angrily over a planned vote on the remainder of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s Cabinet.
MPs boycotting the vote banged tables and shouted “illegitimate” in vocal opposition to Abdul Mahdi’s proposed candidates.
The boycott — mostly by a group led by populist cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr and his allies — left the country’s Parliament and two key ministries paralyzed amid fears of rising instability in Baghdad and the country’s southern provinces, lawmakers told Arab News.
Angry clashes among MPs forced Abdul Mahdi to leave the parliament building together with his eight candidates and cancel voting on completion of his Cabinet.
Candidates of the ministries of interior and defense were at the core of the dispute that erupted several weeks ago between the two biggest Shiite-led parliamentary blocs — Reform, led by Al-Sadr, and the Iranian-backed alliance Al-Binna’a led by Hadi Al-Amiri, head of the Badr Organization.
Falih Al-Fayadh, a former national security adviser and chairman of the Popular Mobilization Units nominated by Al-Binna’a to occupy the Interior Ministry, was rejected by Al-Sadr and his allies for being “non-independent.”
Al-Fayadh is viewed by most political blocs as “the candidate of Iran,” negotiators for both alliances told Arab News.
Faisal Fannar Al-Jarba, a former commander of Saddam Hussein’s special squadron, was also rejected by Al-Amiri’s Sunni allies.
The two candidates had been selected by Abdul Mahdi along with six others, some of whom have also been rejected by other voting blocs.
“We clearly told Abdul Mahdi to change his candidates for interior and defense, but he insisted on bringing them again to the Parliament,” a key Reform negotiator told Arab News.
“Today (Tuesday), we just repeated our message and told him again and again there is no way to vote for Al-Fayadh or Al-Jarba. He has to change them if he wants to complete his Cabinet, otherwise we will keep rejecting them, or maybe go to the street to do what we have to do,” he said.
Parliament voted on 14 ministers out of 22 of Abdul Mahdi’s government early last month, but postponed the vote on the remaining eight ministries because of a lack of agreement over suitable candidates.
The interior, defense, education, higher education, culture, justice, migration and planning ministries have been vacant since then.
The parliamentary session on Tuesday was delayed several times as Abdul Mahdi tried to convince leaders of the Reform bloc and their allies to vote for at least some of the candidates.
“The chaos inside Parliament today prevented the vote on the completion of the Cabinet,” Abdul Mahdi told reporters. “We are looking forward to (reaching) a parliamentary agreement to vote on the current list of candidates or any other list.”
Abdul Mahdi denied the latest voting delay would create an administrative vacuum. “These (the vacant) ministries are running by proxy,” he said.

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