Iraq MPs vote to sack finance minister after corruption allegations
Baghdad // Iraq’s embattled finance minister Hoshyar Zebari lost a vote of confidence in a secret parliamentary ballot amid allegations he misused millions of dinars.
A total of 158 MPs voted against Mr Zebari and 77 supported him in Baghdad on Wednesday, while 14 abstained, deputy speaker Humam Hamoudi said. Mr Zebari, who has denied all allegations of squandering public money, can appeal the vote but for the time being cannot carry out his duties.
He has been leading Iraq through talks with the International Monetary Fund to help repair Iraq’s public finances damaged by the oil price drop and war with ISIL.
According to the parliamentary speaker’s office, MPs rejected prime minister Haidar Al Abadi’s request to postpone the vote until Iraq meets the loan requirements.
An MP from Mr Zebari’s Kurdish KDP party, Khisro Goran, said the parliamentary action was politically motivated.
Iraq is now without defence, interior and finance ministers. Mr Al Abadi is expected to present candidates after returning from a current visit to the US.
Mr Zebari has served in every government since 2003, and served as a long-standing link between Baghdad and the country’s autonomous Kurdish region, the leader of which has called for a referendum on independence.
As finance minster, a US$5.4 billion (Dh19.8bn), three-year loan was approved with the IMF earlier this year, and the first review of Iraq’s progress toward honouring pledges to the IMF to cut spending and reduce corruption was set to end this month. Once Iraq completes the review, it will be eligible to receive a second loan instalment of up to $635 million.
Mr Zebari is the second minister to be sacked by parliament in less than a month.
MPs voted on August 25 to remove defence minister Khalid Al Obeidi, who had also been questioned over alleged corruption.
Interior minister Mohammed Al Ghabban resigned following a bombing in central Baghdad that killed more than 300 people in July, and Mr Al Abadi’s office announced that he had also accepted the resignations of six other ministers.
Mr Al Abadi called in February for the cabinet to include technocrats, but has faced major opposition from powerful political parties that rely on control of ministries for patronage and funds.
Parliament approved five new ministers in August after months of delay, but the defence and interior posts remain unfilled.
*Bloomberg and Agence-France-Presse
Updated: September 21, 2016 04:00 AM