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Following protests, Iraq cabinet okays PM's reform package

Proposed by PM Haider al-Abadi, raft of reforms aims to improve public services and root out widespread corruption

09.08.2015
Following protests, Iraq cabinet okays PM's reform package

BAGHDAD 

Iraq’s Council of Ministers on Sunday approved a package of reforms proposed by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ostensibly aimed at improving public services and rooting out widespread corruption.

It does away with the positions of vice-president and deputy prime minister, among other things.

The move comes following two weeks of countrywide demonstrations to protest government corruption and demand improved public services.

Late on Sunday, thousands gathered at Tahrir Square in capital Baghdad to support the reform package.

The crowd in the square chanted: "Bye bye [Vice President Nouri] al-Maliki", "Bye bye [Vice President Ayad] Allawi", "Bye bye [Vice President Usama] al-Nujayfi", "This nation is with you, brave Abadi", and "We are with you, Abadi, against the burglars".

According to a Sunday statement issued by the prime minister’s office, 31 government ministers met for an extraordinary session in Baghdad during which the vast majority of them approved the reform package, which contained the following six points:

Firstly, it calls for reducing the size of the security details attached to top government officials and reassigning them to the state security organs (army, police, etc.) from which they were drawn.

Secondly, it calls for the elimination of “special funds” that had been allocated to various state institutions.

Thirdly, it calls for the creation of a “professional committee” of technocrats, members of which are to be appointed by Iraq’s council of ministers. This committee is to be tasked with appointing senior government officials according to their qualifications rather than “political or sectarian” affiliations.

Fourthly, it calls for improving public services by reducing government expenses and enhancing public-sector efficiency -- although it does not provide specific details as to how this would be achieved.

Fifthly, it calls for the “immediate” elimination of the posts of vice-president and deputy prime minister.

And finally, it calls for investigations -- to be conducted by judicial figures “known for their total impartiality” -- into longstanding allegations of government corruption.

The document concludes by noting that the above-mentioned points had been “called for by the highest religious authority” -- a reference to Iranian-born Shia cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani -- and were based on the “demands of the people to combat corruption and realize social justice”.

According to Iraq’s constitution, the prime minister’s reform package must now be referred to parliament for ratification, after which it will go into effect.

Notably, a spokesman for Iraq’s Supreme Judicial Council announced the same day that Deputy Prime Minister Bahaa al-Aaraji had been referred to court to face corruption charges.

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