Middle East

Iraq approves partial list of cabinet ministers amid government struggles

Members of Iraq's parliament begin cabinet confirmation process in Baghdad (Reuters)

Iraqi lawmakers approved a partial list of Prime Minister-designate Adel Abdul Mahdi's proposed cabinet on Wednesday, amid ongoing tensions and hurdles to set up a functioning government.

Among the ministers who were approved by parliament was Thamer Ghadhban, who was appointed oil minister. He previously held the position on an interim basis.

Veteran Kurdish lawmaker Fuad Hussein was also appointed Iraq's finance minister.

The country's parliament is expected to vote on eight remaining eight at an unspecified later date.


Fancy being a member of Iraq's cabinet? Just apply online

Still, the appointments were overshadowed by an unruly parliamentary session that underscored the difficulties Abdul Mahdi faces as he seeks consensus for his cabinet.

Before the vote began on Wednesday, Abdul Mahdi opened the evening session by introducing his programme, but several major parties, including Moqtada al-Sadr's winning electoral bloc, Saeroon, walked out as he spoke.

Chaos ensued after Saeroon lawmaker Sabah al-Saidi asked parliamentary speaker Mohammad al-Halbousi to delay the vote to give MPs more time to study the nominees' resumes.

A shouting match ensued between Halbousi and Saidi, followed by more walk-outs from Saeroon, the Nasr Alliance and several Sunni blocs.

Around 10.30pm local time, lawmakers were given a 30-minute recess to deliberate, according to the parliamentary media office, and were expected back to confirm the nominees.

But several lawmakers told Reuters they thought this might be a delaying tactic and that members of parliament might not return to the floor.

Stalled for months

Earlier in the day, a Sunni Arab parliamentary bloc pulled out of talks on forming the next government.

Since Iraqs election eight months ago, the country has had difficulty in setting up a government.

On 2 October, newly elected President Barham Salih named veteran Shia politician Abdul Mahdi as prime minister and tasked him with forming a new government.

Under Iraqs constitution, he was given 30 days to form a cabinet.


New Iraqi government faces protest and division as it looks to unify nation

Since Saddam Hussein was toppled in a 2003 US-led invasion, power has been shared among Iraqs three biggest ethnic-sectarian components. The prime minister has traditionally been a Shia Arab, the speaker of parliament a Sunni Arab and the president a Kurd.

Abdul Mahdi had served as vice president from 2005 to 2011 and as oil minister from 2014 to 2016.

Salih, 58, a veteran Kurdish politician, served as deputy prime minister under Nouri al-Maliki from 2006 to 2009. He was also the prime minister of the semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region from 2009 to 2012.

Politics in Iraq has long been seen as a struggle between competing American and Iranian power blocs, but Mahdi's nomination was supported both by the Sairoun Alliance – backed by cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and seen as critical of Iranian influence – and by the Fatah Coalition, which is composed of supporters of Iran-backed militias.

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