Salam Zidan – Yalla – Baghdad

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has enjoyed relative comfort since removing his biggest enemies from government as a result of the reforms he vowed to implement last August. Now he is preparing to rid himself of remaining opponents through major ministerial reshuffle, following support from Sadrist Movement leader Muqtada al-Sadr.

A source close to Abadi told Yalla that the committee the Prime Minister has chosen to form a technocratic government is operating in complete secrecy, and hasn’t started consulting other political blocs in relation to forming a new government. There are indications that Abadi could surprise the blocs by submitting the names of the ministers of the technocratic government directly to parliament, to put them in a position whereby they are closely watched by the nation, especially since most of the current ministers have already offered their resignations.

“Abadi has real desire to put the political process on the right track, through the abolition of some ministries and merging others, in order to devolve the powers of the dissolved ministries to local governments, and support the central government according to Act 21 of the law related to governorates that aren’t part of a region,” the source said. “It is expected that Abadi will transfer the powers of the service based ministries to local governments on the first of March.”

The source confirmed that the ministries expected to be abolished or restructured include the ministries of education, labour and social affairs, municipalities, health, housing and construction. The ministries of youth and sports, and migration and displacement will be restructured as two new independent bodies.

“The Prime Minister is currently working on two paths. The first path is to continue the cooperation and consultation with political blocs to reach a shared vision which includes submitting the names of the new ministers to the parliament,” a spokesperson for Abadi’s office told Yalla. “The second path is related to the work of the technical committee headed by the Prime Minister, focusing on selecting and nominating the names of the ministers which will be presented to the parliament and the political blocs for consideration.”

He indicated he didn’t have an exact number for the ministers who have resigned from the current government.

Mass demonstrations were held on Friday at the Tahrir Square in the centre of Baghdad, in support of the technocratic government and to eradicate corruption.

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“The demonstrations aren’t in support of a specific person, but in support of every person who conducts reforms and commits to it, and if Abadi is able to progress it, we are with him. One of the objectives of the demonstrations is for all to listen to the voice of the nation and the public that will seek justice against those who obstruct the reforms,” Sheikh Salah al-Obaidi, spokesman for Muqtada al-Sadr said. “Al-Sadr will not give up on the reforms and the substantial ministerial changes are a step towards real change related to financial, economic and regulatory matters. If he isn’t able to achieve this, the next step will be calling for a government without Abadi.”

He continued, “The ministers of the Sadrist Movement were the first ministers who offered their resignations to Abadi in order to support the project of a technocratic government. The deadline of 45 days which al-Sadr has given for the establishment of a such a government aims for the selection of technocratic ministers according to their professions and education, to save the country from corruption.”

The Islamic Supreme Council led by Ammar al-Hakim have three ministers of oil, youth and sport, they have all offered their resignations to Abadi, in the meantime the Sunnis represented in the Iraqi Forces Alliance put the resignation of their ministers under the control of the Speaker of the Council of Representatives Salim al-Jabouri.

“The public is in need of real reforms through substantial ministerial changes or comprehensive reforms, but it should include the full system in the country which is consisted of the legislative and executive authorities.  Hamid Mala, a senior member of the Islamic Supreme Council said. “The reforms must include eliminating the proxy appointments in the independent organizations which disables the development movement and paralysis reforms.”

Meanwhile Iraqi Forces Alliance MP Raad al-Dahlaki spoke to Yalla: “State reforms should be conducted through passing laws according to the document of political agreements, weapons should be restricted by state control, and Abadi admitted the failure of his government and none of the ministers were held accountable or sacked.”

Al-Dahlaki also believes that reforms in Iraq are attached to a substantial change in the administrative systems and not through changing titles. “In his first reforms Abadi hit his political opponents and continues on this course in order to extend his powers.” He said.