Middle East Iraqi PM seeks parliament approval for new cabinet

Iraqi PM seeks parliament approval for new cabinet

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi

Iraq’s prime minister is due to seek parliamentary approval for a cabinet reshuffle on Thursday amid mounting pressure for political reform.

A number of parliamentarians from across Iraq’s political spectrum have threatened to pull out of the scheduled vote if their demands are not met, suggesting Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi may miss the deadline set by lawmakers to submit his ministerial nominations.

Sunni politicians are demanding a complete cabinet reshuffle, Shiite lawmakers are divided in their stance on the new government and Kurdish politicians have insisted that 20 percent of ministers in the new cabinet must be Kurdish. It is not clear if al-Abadi will propose a complete or partial reshuffle.

The parliamentary vote comes as thousands of followers of the influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr continue a sit-in outside the Iraqi capital’s heavily fortified Green Zone, calling for political reform and an end to corruption. On Sunday, al-Sadr ramped up pressure on the government by beginning a sit-in inside the Green Zone, home to key government offices and foreign embassies.

On Thursday, all roads leading to the Green Zone were closed as riot police and security forces were deployed.

In August, al-Abadi proposed a sweeping reform package to combat corruption, cut government spending and merge ministries, but his efforts have been stymied by sectarian tensions and struggles to contain the Islamic State group.