Iraq’s Prime Minister Haidar Abadi finally presented his new cabinet of technocrats to parliament. It now has a little over a week to discuss the nominees. The whole process to come up with the ministers has been fraught with problems with the majority of the ruling parties opposing Abadi’s plans. The main problem is that Abadi’s cabinet threatens the ruling parties hold on the government. What has made the situation worse is Abadi’s unwillingness to consult with others and to present a clear plan. The premier is already facing a difficult situation, and his alienating the other lists is only making the situation worse.
On March 31, 2016 a list was presented of Premier Abadi’s nominees for his new cabinet. That led Moqtada al-Sadr to call off his protests at Baghdad’s Green Zone, which had annoyed the prime minister, but it created more problems in the process. First, the nominee for Oil Minister Nizar Salim withdrew his candidacy claiming there was no agreement amongst the ruling blocs over the new cabinet. Salim was correct. Sadr is the only national leader who seemed to agree with Abadi’s move. It was reported that the Sadrists, the Supreme Council and Dawa Iraq Organization were the only ones to submit candidates to Abadi. All the others refused to go along with the move. First, the Kurdish Alliance complained that Abadi never explained how their ministers had failed, why they should be replaced, that the nominees don’t represent the political parties, and that the prime minister was ignoring the right of the Kurd to choose their own representatives. In turn, they claimed they would not vote on the new minister in parliament. The Solution List, which is part of the Sunni alliance, said that the cabinet was a way to exclude some parties from power. Beforehand, Iyad Allawi and Mutahidun stated that they would not give up their ministries. The Supreme Council countered Abadi’s reforms by saying that if the government were to be technocratic and non-partisan than Abadi should resign as well. Needless to say, Abadi’s program has angered almost everyone. The ministries are how the ruling parties control the government. Each one is run like a private fiefdom, and allows the parties to hand out patronage via jobs and steal via corrupt contracts. It would be expected that if the technocrats were to be approved they would move to get rid of all the political hacks that occupy the director generals, the managers, etc. That is a major threat, which none of the parties are willing to agree to as of now.
What has made the whole process worse for the prime minister is his apparent inability or unwillingness to consult with others. Since Abadi first started talking about reforms last year, he has never offered a clear or coherent program. It was a surprise to all when he first came out with his proposals. Since then the complaints have mounted into a chorus. Members from within his own Dawa and State of Law wanted him to talk to them before making major decisions, but he didn’t. Abadi’s two main allies, the Supreme Council’s Ammar Hakim and Moqtada al-Sadr have repeatedly made similar statements. The National Alliance, which all those parties belong to said that it would not follow Abadi’s program if they didn’t know about the details. Members of the Kurdish Alliance have told the press that Abadi’s plan has never been made clear to them. Finally, Allawi’s bloc complained about the lack of transparency in Abadi’s decisions. There is no way the premier can be successful unless he builds consensus. None exists right now. A major reason why so many parties turned on Maliki was that he only talked with his small core of advisers when making policy. Abadi, who was supposed to be the anti-Maliki, and came in talking about repairing relations with the other parties, has instead followed in his predecessor’s footsteps. That makes a successful transition with the cabinet all the more difficult.
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