Iraq PM to attend parliament for cabinet vote: speaker

Emergency session on Wednesday ended with lawmakers shouting and throwing punches in the parliament hall

Afp April 14, 2016

BAGHDAD: Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi will attend parliament on Thursday for a vote on a new cabinet lineup, after two previous sessions ended in chaos, the speaker's office said.

Abadi has called for the current cabinet of party-affiliated ministers to be replaced by a government of technocrats, but has faced significant resistance from the powerful parties that rely on control of ministries for patronage and funds.

The political row comes at a critical time for Iraq, which is battling to regain more ground from the Islamic State jihadist group, while also facing a major financial crisis.

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An emergency session on Wednesday ended with lawmakers shouting, shoving and throwing punches in the parliament hall, leading speaker Salim al-Juburi to call a recess.

Juburi, political bloc leaders and Abadi agreed "on the prime minister's attendance of the scheduled parliament session (Thursday) to present final adjustments to the ministerial cabinet and put the candidates to a vote," the speaker's office said in a statement.

Abadi only occasionally attends parliament sessions.

He presented a first list of cabinet nominees at the end of March, but the political blocs put forward their own candidates, and most of the premier's original list was replaced on a second presented to MPs on Tuesday.

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Some MPs demanded the opportunity to vote on Abadi's original list -- from which at least two candidates had already withdrawn -- but the session was adjourned Tuesday without a vote.

Dozens of lawmakers then began a sit-in and spent the night at parliament.

MP Iskander Witwit said the sit-in was still ongoing as of Thursday, but that could not be independently confirmed.

"Undermining, further discrediting Abadi, and Juburi for working with him, was the goal," said Kirk Sowell, a Jordan-based political risk analyst who is the publisher of Inside Iraqi Politics.

"And in that regard, they've had some success," he said.