Iraqi parliament gives PM Abadi deadline to reform cabinet

Iraqi parliament gives Prime Minister Haider al Abadi three-day deadline to reform cabinet

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

Iraqi riot police guard the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, March 25, 2016. Thousands have rallied in Baghdad in support of al-Sadr who has taken the lead role in protests demanding government reforms.

Iraq's parliament gave embattled Prime Minister Haider al Abadi a three-day deadline, until Thursday, to present a cabinet of technocrats, as Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr attended ongoing protests that calls for reform.

Sadr himself spent the night camping in the Green Zone while thousands of his supporters continued a 10-day-old sit-in outside the gates of the fortified area in central Baghdad.

"Parliament is the legitimate representative of the people and it declared that Thursday is the final deadline for the government to present a new ministerial line-up," a statement from the speaker's office said on Monday.

Parliament sources said that 170 lawmakers out of 245 present voted in favour of the deadline.

"If Abadi fails to present his new cabinet, he must be present in parliament on Saturday to explain why," said Haidar al Mutlaq, an MP from the State of Law bloc.

Abadi has promised to reshuffle the government by replacing party-affiliated ministers with technocrats, a move meant to help tackle corruption and Iraq's massive budget crunch.

The premier has faced resistance from ministers within his own Shiite bloc who are reluctant to give up their positions and attendant privileges.

Abadi already faces pressure from the street in the shape of the sit-in by Sadr's supporters at the gates of the Green Zone, which is home to his office, parliament and several large Western embassies.

Influential Iraqi Shiite cleric al Sadr met with Iraqi Prime, Minister Abadi, on Sunday night, after beginning a sit-in in Baghdad's highly fortified Green Zone, intended to be a show of force following his calls to combat government corruption.

Sadr had warned that his supporters would storm the Green Zone if Abadi failed to present a line-up of technocrats.

But buying Abadi a little more time, Sadr entered the Green Zone alone on Sunday, asking his supporters to remain outside the perimeter.

The Sadrist movement also staged protests in the holy Shiite city of Najaf, where Sadr is usually based, as well as in Basra, Hilla and Kut.