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Iraq PM seeks cabinet reshuffle amid calls for resumption of demonstrations

Prime Minister-designate of Iraq, Adel Abdul Mahdi [ACMCU/Twitter]
Prime Minister-designate of Iraq, Adel Abdul Mahdi [ACMCU/Twitter]

Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi is seeking a cabinet reshuffle away from political blocs, taking advantage of the pressure of the Iraqi street demanding change and reforms. Meanwhile, the protest forces confirmed that such reshuffle is to anesthetise the people’s will, as influential political blocs will only determine the alternatives.

Abdul-Mahdi said in a speech on Wednesday evening that he would ask the parliament to vote on a cabinet reshuffle during on Thursday, without disclosing the most prominent ministers to be replaced. However, sources from the Iraqi government confirmed to the New Arab that the most notable amendments proposed by the Prime Minister would be the selection of an education minister and find a substitute for former Health Minister, Ala Al-Alwan, in addition to exempting two ministers, who are likely to be ministers of Communications and Agriculture. Yet, consultations about the ministers of Industry, Electricity and Transport are underway between Abdul-Mahdi and political blocs to which the ministers intended to be sacked belong.

This comes at the same time as preparations for mass popular demonstrations in Baghdad and several southern cities on Friday, voicing the same demands, while confirming what activists described as distrust of the government’s promises and decisions, and calling to hold those involved in killing demonstrators accountable.

The leader of the Salvation and Development Front, Atheel Al-Nujaifi, told The New Arab that “the reshuffle is the least of what the government can do to satisfy the people, i.e. a method to absorb the growing resentment of the cabinet and the calls for the dismissal of the entire government, as some ministers have been involved in corruption or other suspicious activities.”

READ: Protests resume in Iraq’s Sadr City as uprising enters second week

Al-Nujaifi continued: “Certainly, there are blocs and political parties, which will not be satisfied with this step. However, the large blocs are convinced that the situation is dangerous, and a ministerial reshuffle must take place. They will not be interested in the arguments of their allies from smaller blocs, whether they agreed or not.”

He pointed out that “everyone understands that the entire government risks to be sacked if there is no reshuffle; meaning that the entire government will be exempted.”

For her part, the leader in the Coalition of Victory, MP Nada Shaker Jawdat, said: “We believe that Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi will make a minor reshuffle, and the replacement ministers will come from the same blocs and parties that currently dominate the ministry.”

Jawdat told The New Arab that “this reshuffle is aimed at numbing the Iraqi people, as Abdul-Mahdi cannot rid himself from the pressures exerted by the political blocs, which are frankly stronger than the pressures of protesters. Indeed, the political forces are always reminding Abdul-Mahdi they named him Prime Minister.”

READ: Oil prices rise due to protests in Iraq, Ecuador

She continued: “Abdul-Mahdi cannot touch the ministries controlled by large and powerful blocs, especially since some of those ministries are allegedly linked to corruption.”

Jawdat stressed: “We support the changing of the current government; this is the best solution, not a reshuffle. Abdul-Mahdi cannot liberate his decisions from the control of political blocs.”

The leader of the Fatah Alliance (supporter of Abdul-Mahdi and his government), MP Amer al-Fayez, explained to The New Arab that “there has been an agreement between the political blocs and Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, prior to the outbreak of demonstrations on a cabinet reshuffle.” He also clarified that “Abdul-Mahdi will exploit the pressure of the Iraqi street to make this amendment without facing major obstacles, despite the existence of prior agreement of the blocs on this matter. This is why Abdul-Mahdi will provide alternative ministers separately from the political blocs, taking advantage of the pressure and anger of the street to choose independent and professional technocrats.”

Mustafa Hameed, an activist in the Iraqi demonstrations, told The New Arab that “the demonstrations have decreased due to extreme repression used against the protesters. However, we are currently trying to regroup.”

He added: “Tomorrow, Friday, we hope to witness the resumption of the intensity and momentum of the demonstrations. The protests will not stop until the achievement of what made us went out to the streets, in addition to holding the protesters’ killers, led by Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi, accountable.” He considered that “the cabinet reshuffle is a ruse to mock the Iraqi people, because the problem is not about a few ministers, but resides in the context of the failed demarche upon which the Iraqi State has been established and proved its impotence. Tomorrow the demonstrators’ destination will be the Liberation Square. We might be hindered by the security forces so that we will look for an alternative location nearby.”

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