Iraqi premier tests authority in anti-graft push after protests

Bloomberg reports: Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi, backed by the nation’s top Shiite cleric, vowed to investigate corruption and proposed abolishing key government posts in a move that will test his authority in the fractured country.

Abadi, in a seven-point plan that has to be ratified by parliament, said the positions of vice presidents and deputy prime ministers should be eliminated immediately as part of a push to improve performance and tackle corruption. Nouri al-Maliki, Abadi’s predecessor and one of the country’s three vice presidents, said he supports the plan, which was also approved by the cabinet.

Thousands of Iraqis took to the streets on Friday to protest what they describe as widespread corruption in OPEC’s second-biggest producer. While the plunge in oil prices and the battle against Islamic State militants are depleting the government’s coffers, many Iraqis say corruption is compounding the nation’s economic woes.
“Abadi chose the right time to take these decisions,” Hameed Fayad, a political science professor in Baghdad University, said by phone. “The real battle will be in parliament in the coming weeks, but in the end, the religious authority and people’s word will have the upper hand.”

Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani, Iraq’s top Shiite cleric, urged the prime minister on Friday to tackle corruption and fire any official “who tries to hinder reform, no matter what their position is.” [Continue reading…]

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