BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraqi politicians failed on Thursday to agree on a new government, prolonging deadlock that has failed to resolve unprecedented mass unrest and has stalled the country’s recovery from years of war.
Parliament adjourned a session to approve a cabinet proposed by Prime Minister-designate Mohammed Allawi because of a lack of quorum, state TV reported, after lawmakers who opposed his nominees boycotted the session.
Political infighting and alleged widespread corruption have crippled Iraq’s efforts to recover from two U.S. invasions, sanctions and the destructive war to defeat Islamic State in 2017.
The country faces a mass protest movement that broke out in October and brought down former Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi two months later. His cabinet has stayed on in a caretaker capacity, however.
The protests, which first demanded jobs and services, quickly turned into calls for the removal of Iraq’s entire ruling elite. Protesters oppose Allawi because they view him as part of the system they want to bring down.
Security forces and powerful militia groups have shot dead hundreds of mostly unarmed demonstrators. Around 500 people have been killed in unrest since October, most of them protesters, according to a Reuters rally from medics and police. The number of protesters has reduced somewhat but demonstrations continue on a daily basis.
Allawi issued a long list of promises when he was nominated this month: to hold early elections, punish people who killed protesters, end foreign interference and check the power of non-state armed groups – an ambitious program for a prime minister who has no particular party behind him.
Abdul Mahdi became beholden to the interests of Iran-backed Shi’ite Muslim paramilitary groups and other parties that have a strong representation in parliament and control government posts.
Government officials say Allawi’s cabinet selection was heavily influenced by renegade Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who has gained from the general chaos in Iraq after the United States killed a senior Iranian commander in Baghdad in January
Sunni and Kurdish political groups who stood to lose portfolios in a cabinet of ostensible independents have vehemently opposed Allawi’s choices.
According to Iraq’s constitution, Allawi must get a cabinet approved through parliament or President Barham Salih will need to appoint a new candidate for prime minister.
(Reporting by John Davison and Muayad Hameed; Editing by Frances Kerry)