Iraqi cleric Sadr gives Abadi 72 hours to vote on cabinet

Iraqi cleric Moqtada al Sadr gives Iraq's leaders 72 hours to vote on technocrats' cabinet otherwise he will re-start protests

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Iraqi Shiite leader Moqtada al Sadr speaks during a sit-in at the gates of Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone on March 27, 2016.

Iraq's Shiite cleric Moqtada al Sadr said on Saturday he would re-start protests in 72 hours if the nation's leaders failed to vote on a technocrats' cabinet proposed by Prime Minister Haider al Abadi to stem corruption.

In a statement received from his office, Sadr addressed the warning to Abadi and the two other top state officials, President Fuad Masum and Parliament Speaker Salim al Jabouri.

Abadi is struggling to deliver on a plan to overhaul his government by bringing in independent professionals who can free their ministries from the grip of the dominant political groups.

MPs asking Prime Minister Haider al Abadi's cabinet to step down bring in technocrats during a protests in Iraq parliament Baghdad on April 13, 2016. (AA)

However, Iraqi parliament cancelled a session on anti-graft reforms on Saturday, state TV said, as some MPs disputed the legitimacy of the speaker to chair the meeting in an escalation of a political crisis crippling state institutions.

The session is the third cancelled this week as politicians bicker over a plan to overhaul Prime Minister Haider al Abadi's cabinet by bringing in technocrats in a bid to stem corruption.

The session was scrapped because "parliament couldn't be secured" by the security forces, said a statement from the office of the speaker, Salim al Jabouri.

The statement was apparently referring to MPs who say al Jabouri has no right to chair the session and who met on Thursday in his absence, holding a ballot to oust him. They say they have a majority in the assembly, which al Jabouri disputes.

Iraq, a major OPEC exporter which sits on one of the world's largest oil reserves, ranks 161st out of 168 countries on Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index.

The dissenting MPs criticise al Jabouri for not organising a session to grill al Abadi over his proposed cabinet line-up.

Al Jabouri says it is the premier who failed to show up at the voting session he had called for on Thursday and that the quorum wasn't even reached to hold a simple debate.

Both sides say they have a majority. State TV on Friday showed pictures of the assembly held by the dissenters on Thursday and counted 131 MPs. The parliament has 328 seats.

Tussles between lawmakers broke out on Wednesday, a day after the first attempted vote.

Al Abadi has warned the crisis could hamper the war against DAESH terrorists who control regions in northern and western Iraq.

TRTWorld, Reuters