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Iraq fails to approve PM-designate Allawi's cabinet, prolonging political crisis

PM-designate Mohammed Allawi leaves Iraqi parliament after failing to hold a vote of confidence [Anadolu/Getty]

Date of publication: 27 February, 2020

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Iraq's parliament fails to approve a new government with lawmakers boycotting a vote of confidence.
Iraq's parliament failed to approve a new government on Thursday, prolonging the months-long deadlock as anti-government protests continue to call for the ouster of the country's political elite.

A session to approve premier-designate Mohammad Allawi's cabinet was adjourned because of lack of quorum, Reuters reported.

Parliamentarians who opposed his cabinet choices boycotted the confidence vote.

Allawi was charged with forming a new government on 1 February, after President Barham Saleh gave political parties an ultimatum, saying he would name a new premier unilaterally if they did not agree on a candidate.

A widespread anti-government protest movement launched in October let to the ouster of former Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi in just two months.

But Iraq's politicians have been unable to forge a way out of the political vacuum it caused.

The session has been postponed to Sunday, according to unconfirmed reports on Twitter.

Discussions were ongoing between various political groups in the run-up to parliament's noon session.

Allawi's supporters were struggling to convince Kurdish deputies to vote in support of the new government, The New Arab's Arabic-language service reported.

But parliamentary member for the Kurdish Movement for Change Yusuf Mohammed Al-Khamis said many Kurdish delegates were arriving in Baghdad to vote in support of Allawi.

Al-Khamis had said that discussions were still ongoing and that a final decision would be made in close run-up to the vote.

Dual-national

Allawi submitted a request to the UK embassy in Baghdad Thursday seeking to renounce his British nationality just hours ahead of the crucial parliamentary voteThe New Arab's Arabic-language service reported.

Iraqi media leaked Allawi's request to UK ambassador Stephen Hickey as the country's parliament prepared for a vote of confidence in the PM-designate.

The issue of Allawi's British citizenship was expected to be raised by parliamentary speaker Mohammed Al-Halbousi.

The premier-designate's dual citizenship was also met with criticism from Iraq's protest movement, which has demanded his cabinet not be drawn from the political elite.

Allawi would not have been the first prime minister to hold dual citizenship.

Outgoing premier Adel Abdel Mahdi holds French citizenship and former prime minister Haider Al-Abadi is also a British national.

'Working for instability'

Allawi warned last week that if no government is formed by the 2 March constitutional deadline, "it will be because there are indeed parties that are working for instability" in order to maintain "confessionalism and corruption".

He also applied pressure last week, said it would not be fair for him to hold his post beyond the constitutional deadline, warning against a "very dangerous" vacuum.

Abdel Mahdi stepped down in December in the face of the unprecedented anti-government protests demanding an end to corruption, an independent prime minister and a total political overhaul.

But protesters have rejected the choice of Allawi as his successor, saying the two-time former communications minister is too close to the elite they have railed against for months.

The current parliament is Iraq's most divided in recent history and it is not uncommon for sessions to be adjourned due to a lack of quorum.

Allawi's government would be expected to rule only until early parliamentary elections are held under a new electoral law - a major demand of demonstrators. 

Around 600 protesters have been killed since the mass demonstrations swept the country in October last year.

Iraqi security forces and Iran-linked militias have been accused of extreme brutality against protesters, with many deaths reportedly caused by sniper fire and military-grade tear gas grenades. 

Activists have also suffered abductions and targeted assassinations.

Read more: Protester shot dead by unidentified gunmen in Iraqi capital

The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq on Monday said it had obtained credible evidence that protesters had been targeted with hunting rifles, stones and firebombs over the weekend, causing at least 50 injuries.

"The continued pattern of the use of excessive force, with ambiguously identified armed groups and unclear loyalties, is a grave security concern that must be tackled urgently and decisively. Peaceful protesters should be protected at all times," said Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq.

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