Iraqi Prime Minister Announces Measures Aimed at Fighting Corruption

Protesters chant anti-government slogans as riot police guard the provincial council building during a rally against corruption and the lack of government services in Basra, of Baghdad, on Friday. (PHOTO CREDIT: Nabil Al-Jurani/AP)
Protesters chant anti-government slogans as riot police guard the provincial council building during a rally against corruption and the lack of government services in Basra, of Baghdad, on Friday. (PHOTO CREDIT: Nabil Al-Jurani/AP)

Iraq’s prime minister announced drastic anti-corruption and other measures on Sunday as he sought to calm weeks of protests over poor government services that are posing a major challenge to his rule.

In statements posted to his official Facebook and Twitter accounts, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said his government would reopen graft cases under the supervision of a high-level commission, change the way ministers are selected by eliminating party- and sectarian-based quotas, and end the expensive security details for senior officials.

“We are starting today genuine reform in all areas,” Abadi said in a statement.

The most dramatic step was his pledge to immediately abolish Iraq’s three vice presidential posts, considered largely ceremonial, as well as the office of deputy prime minister.

Nouri al-Maliki, Abadi’s predecessor and political rival, serves as a vice president but is thought to still wield considerable influence. Deputy Prime Minister Bahaa al-Araji, who is under investigation over corruption allegations, resigned Sunday after the announcement.

But it was unclear whether Abadi would need a constitutional amendment to eliminate the vice presidencies. Some of the measures, Iraqi legal experts said, would need approval from both the cabinet and parliament. Opposition blocs within parliament are also likely to push back against the decrees.

“Some blocs will try to obstruct the vote on this resolution because it threatens their interests,” lawmaker Hamid al-Mutlak said. “But public pressure is very strong.”

Iraqi media reported Sunday that the cabinet endorsed the decrees. The speaker of parliament, Salim al-Jubouri, also said Sunday that he supports the measures.

Moqtada al-Sadr, a powerful Iraqi Shiite cleric, released a statement Sunday calling on “millions” to protest parliament if it refuses to ratify the proposals.

“Everyone should stand against the corrupt,” Sadr, who once helped lead an insurgency against U.S. troops in the country, said.

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SOURCE: The Washington Post, Mustafa Salim and Erin Cunningham