Protesting MPs fail to oust Iraq speaker
BAGHDAD // Iraqi MPs on Saturday postponed a vote to oust speaker Salim Al Juburi after failing to reach a quorum in their second failed attempt this week.
It came as part of a stalled effort to remove top officials who the parliamentarians accuse of failing to combat corruption and mismanagement.
An official session planned for Saturday had earlier been postponed for “security reasons,” according to parliamentary spokesman Imad Al Khafaji. The protesting lawmakers gathered at parliament anyway, but later dispersed when it became clear they did not have the numbers to topple the speaker.
The protesting lawmakers vowed to hold the vote next week. An earlier attempt on Thursday had also failed for lack of a quorum.
The lawmakers are demanding that Iraq’s top political leadership, including prime minister Haider Al Abadi, step down – accusing them of failing to reform a political system steeped in patronage. Earlier this week, MPs held a multi-day sit-in at the assembly.
However, many Iraqis blame the lawmakers themselves for squandering billions in oil money, leaving the country with crumbling infrastructure and abysmal services more than 10 years after the US-led invasion and the lifting of international sanctions.
Hundreds of people gathered in Baghdad on Saturday to protest the slow pace of reforms first promised by Mr Al Abadi in August 2014. The proposed reforms consisted of austerity measures that he claimed would also help combat corruption.
Meanwhile, Iraq’s powerful Shiite cleric Muqtada Al Sadr said on Saturday he would re-start protests in 72 hours if leaders failed to hold a vote on a technocrats’ cabinet proposed by Mr Al Abadi.
He addressed the warning to the prime minister and the two other top state officials, president Fuad Masum and Mr Al Juburi.
The United Nations on Friday called on Iraqi leaders to resolve the political crisis, warning that instability could jeopardize the fight against ISIL, which still controls much of northern and western Iraq.
“The only party that benefits from the political divisions and chaos ... is Daesh,” said the UN’s acting head of mission to Iraq, Gyorgy Busztin.
The costs of the war against ISIL, along with the plunge in the price of oil – which accounts for 95 per cent of Iraq’s revenues – has caused an economic crisis, adding fresh urgency to calls for reform.
* Associated Press, with additional reporting by Reuters
Updated: April 17, 2016 04:00 AM