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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 November 2018

Iraq's new cabinet expected to be announced next week

PM designate Abdul Mehdi faces internal sectarian challenges

 Adel Abdul Mahdi, the newly appointed Prime Minister attending a press conference at the headquarter of Iraqi parliament in Baghdad, Iraq, 02 October 2018. EPA
 Adel Abdul Mahdi, the newly appointed Prime Minister attending a press conference at the headquarter of Iraqi parliament in Baghdad, Iraq, 02 October 2018. EPA

Iraq's Prime Minister designate Adel Abdel Mahdi is expected to present his cabinet to parliament for approval next week, despite facing challenges over the allocation of ministries among the different political blocs.

Mr Abdul Mahdi has until early November to submit his cabinet and bring together the political factions, if he fails, another candidate will be chosen for the country's top post.

"We are expecting that the premier designate will present the composition of his new government to the Houses of Representatives by next week," Iraqi member of parliament, Mushriq Al Naji, told The National.

"The suitable day will be determined on the holy day of Arbaeen," Mr Al Naji said, referring to the Shiite pilgrimage that occurs in the holy city of Kerbala.

The new cabinet is expected to have 22 ministries.

"The prime minister-designate is carrying out the necessary communications with the head of parliament and the blocs to set a day," to present the cabinet, Mr Abdul Mahdi's office said in a statement on Facebook and Twitter.

Yet, sectarian divides within the parliament over the allocation of ministries has slowed down the process.

"Internal divisions between the Sunni parties in government has shown signs of discontent between lawmakers, Sunni Arabs have yet to submit their candidates for ministerial positions," an Iraqi official, told The National.

"The rift is over the defense and oil ministry," he said.

The premier designate's cabinet is expected to address widespread civic unrest and ease standoffs across the country that has brought months of deadlock following elections in May.

It will take over a state that is facing major challenges of reconstruction after a war against ISIS, a displacement crisis that has left millions stranded and a troubled economy.

Mr Abdul Mahdi vowed that reconstruction will be on the next administration's top agenda. The country needs around $88 billion to rebuild.

He was assigned to form the new government by President Barham Salih, a secular Kurd who was elected by parliament earlier this month.

Since the US invasion that toppled former dictator Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi presidency has been traditionally held by a Kurd, the premiership by a Shiite Arab and the parliamentary speaker position by a Sunni Arab.

Mr Abdul Mahdi, previously oil and finance minister, is seen as an independent who brings years of experience to the top post.

A Shiite and native of Baghdad, the premier-designate is an economist by training and has the blessing of both of Iraq's feuding foreign power brokers – Iran and the United States.

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