Iraqi PM bids to axe key posts in corruption crackdown
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Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called Sunday for a number of high-ranking government positions to be axed, including the post of his rival Nuri al-Maliki, as part of sweeping corruption reforms.
The proposed reforms, which were approved by Iraq’s council of ministers Sunday but still require parliament’s backing, follow weeks of protests in Baghdad and southern cities demanding better government and a call for tough measures by Iraq's top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
Protestors have taken to the streets to voice their fury against rampant corruption and the abysmal electricity services that plague Iraq. The power cuts see Iraqis having to endure only a few hours of electricity per day as temperatures top 50C.
One of the most drastic proposals outlined in an online statement was the call for the elimination of the multiple posts of vice president and deputy prime minister "immediately".
Maliki, who preceded Abadi as premier, is currently one of the vice presidents.
Abolishing the post would be a blow to Maliki but would also set the prime minister on a collision course with his rival, who is from the same Dawa party and still wields significant influence.
But the change would apparently require the constitution to be amended, meaning that swift change is unlikely.
Abadi also called for a major overhaul of the way officials, including ministers, are selected, saying that all "party and sectarian quotas" should be abolished, and that the candidates chosen by a committee appointed by the premier.
Iraq’s system of sharing out government posts along sectarian lines was introduced in a bid to ensure fair representation for the country’s various religious and ethnic groups, including Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds. But the quotas have long been criticized for promoting unqualified candidates and allowing corruption.
The country has three vice presidents, two Shiites and a Sunni, and three deputy prime ministers, a Shiite, a Sunni and a Kurd.
Abadi also called for 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 less than the allotted number and pocketing the remainder of the allowance.
And he called for an end to "special provisions" for senior officials, both current and retired. He did not specify what these were, but large salaries, government-provided vehicles and generous retirement benefits have all long been bones of contention between the authorities and average Iraqis.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)