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Iraqi PM calls for reform after protests

August 9, 2015

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has called for a number of reforms to improve state finances and reduce corruption. The announcement of the measures follows weeks of massive anti-government protests.

Haider al-Abadi Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images
Image: C.Court/Getty Images

The proposed reforms, which were laid out by Abadi in an online statement issued on Sunday, included a call for the posts of vice president and deputy prime minister to be abolished.

There are three vice presidents - two Shiites and a Sunni - and three deputy prime ministers - a Shiite, a Sunni and a Kurd - in Iraq. One of the current holders of a vice presidential position is former premier Nuri al-Maliki - a rival of Abadi.

The system of appointing people to government posts according to their sectarian affiliation has long drawn criticism for promoting incompetent candidates and fostering corruption.

Abadi, himself a Shiite, also proposed a reduction in the number of bodyguards assigned to protect government officials in a bid to cut public spending, and the formation of an anti-corruption commission.

In a statement issued later on Sunday, Abadi's office said the reforms had been approved by the Iraqi cabinet.

But some of the changes seem to need constitutional amendments, meaning they would require action by parliament before they can take effect.

Influential cleric

The announcement of the suggested reforms came after a call by the widely revered Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani on Friday for the government to "strike with an iron fist" against corruption and to distribute government posts according to ability rather than on sectarian lines.

Sistani's call was in its turn preceded by weeks of protests in the capital, Baghdad, and southern cities against inefficient public services, particularly in view of frequent power outages, corruption and incompetence within the government.

Proteste gegen Korruption und Missmanagement im Irak
Iraqis are angry at electricity shortages and government corruptionImage: Reuters/M. Muhammed

Analysts say that rooting out the deeply entrenched corruption in Iraq could prove extremely difficult, as corrupt practices benefit parties across the political spectrum.

Al-Abadi took office last year and has sought since then to smooth out sectarian and political divisions and achieve national unity in the face of an insurgency by the radical Sunni organization "Islamic State," which has captured large territories both in Iraq and neighboring Syria.

tj/jlw (dpa, Reuters, AFP)