Iraqi MPs threaten to quit coalition if demands not met

More than 60 members of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s coalition threaten to withdraw support if demands laid out in letter are not met

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi poses for media before meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during the United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations in Manhattan, New York September 30, 2015.

Over 60 members of Iraq’s ruling State of Law coalition have presented a letter to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, demanding more consultation ahead of reforms.

In the letter, which was handed in on Tuesday, the parliamentarians threatened to withdraw their support for Abadi’s coalition in 72 hours if he fails to meet the demands.

According to the Reuters news agency, a planned meeting between Abadi and his coalition members on Wednesday was cancelled. The coalition members said they are awaiting a written response.

"If we do not get a written answer, the next step will be going to parliament and pushing for a decision to withdraw the authorisation for reforms from Prime Minister Abadi," one lawmaker told Reuters on the condition of anonymity.

Another lawmaker, also wishing to remain anonymous, added, "Every decision taken by the government on reforms should pass through multiple circles of discussion."

"Taking unilateral and improvised decisions - and that is what Abadi is doing now - could lead the country into a dark tunnel," the lawmaker said.

Abadi, who previously dismissed such demands as personal views that did not reflect the coalition’s official stance, is yet to issue a statement on the letter.

In August, Abadi announced new measures to crack down on corruption and improve state finances by axing certain government posts, including the positions of vice president and deputy prime minister, after weeks of demonstrations in the Iraqi capital Baghdad and southern cities over poor electricity and water supplies.

Many leading figures, including Iraq’s top Shiite Muslim cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, had urged Abadi to do more to rid the government of sectarianism and appoint officials based on their credentials in order to fight corruption.

The reforms were approved by the Council of Ministers and parliament shortly after they were announced, thus abolishing the positions of vice presidents Nouri al-Maliki, Osama al-Nujaifi and Iyad Allawi - who all backed the reforms. Deputy prime ministers Baha Araji, Saleh al-Mutlaq and Roj Nuri Shaways were also dismissed.

However, despite passing through the entire bureaucratic procedure largely unopposed, some politicians deem the reforms, some of which were not actually implemented, to be unconstitutional.

Two months on from the approval, all three vice presidents remain in their positions.

Since the former autocratic regime of Saddam Hussein was deposed following the US invasion of Iraq which started in 2003, the country has had three vice presidents, two of whom are Shiites and one Sunni. The country likewise has had three deputy prime ministers - a Shiite, a Sunni and a Kurd.

Haidar al Abadi was brought in to replace former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki in September 2014 with the aim of overcoming the inter-communal polarisation that had gripped the nation during his predecessor’s reign.

Several of the lawmakers who signed the letter are reportedly supporters of Maliki, who was criticised for creating the polarisation between Iraq’s three main communities due to his authoritarian style of government.

On Wednesday, Maliki reportedly announced the withdrawal of mandate by the coalition given to Abadi to implement the reforms.

"We feel sorry that Al-Abadi refused the principle of consultation with the State of Law Coalition bloc and the other blocs in the parliament,” Maliki said in a statement. This aggravates the general situation of the country to a degree that ushers in catastrophic outcomes."

“All efforts made to push Al-Abadi to retreat have failed … therefore, we withdraw the mandate we gave to him in parliament, which was made on condition of the reforms respecting the Constitution,” the statement added.

Meanwhile, a third lawmaker told Reuters that many signatories were also from Abadi's own Dawa Party and its armed wing, the Badr Organisation, which is led by Hadi al-Amiri.

TRTWorld and agencies