Iraqi PM calls for political reforms

BAGHDAD • Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has called for sweeping reforms, including abolishing the current post of his predecessor Nouri al-Maliki, in response to weeks of demonstrations against corruption and poor services.

One of the most drastic of the proposals outlined yesterday in an online statement was the call for the immediate elimination of the posts of vice-president and deputy prime minister.

However, the changes would apparently require the Constitution to be amended, meaning that rapid action is unlikely. The three vice-presidential posts, which come with more privileges than responsibilities, are held by former top officials, including Mr Maliki.

Dr Abadi also called for a major overhaul of the way senior officials are selected, saying that all "party and sectarian quotas" should be abolished and that the candidates should be chosen by a committee appointed by the premier.

He also said there should be a "comprehensive and immediate reduction" in the number of guards for all officials. This has long been a problem, with some officials having massive personal protection units, and others hiring fewer than the allotted number and pocketing the remainder of the allowance.

But Dr Abadi's efforts face major challenges.

"All political parties that are part of government profit directly from the current system, which is why it has remained unchanged since 2005," said Mr Zaid al-Ali, author of The Struggle For Iraq's Future.

Baghdad and other cities have seen weeks of protests against the poor quality of services, especially power outages that leave Iraqis with only a few hours of government-supplied electricity daily as temperatures top 50 deg C.

The demonstrators have blamed the services crisis on the political class' corruption and incompetence.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 10, 2015, with the headline 'Iraqi PM calls for political reforms'. Print Edition | Subscribe