Iraqi PM-designate announces formation of cabinet

Kadhemi says cabinet lineup chosen, awaiting parliamentary approval after two previous nominees fail to gather necessary support, but Iraqis view him as part of same set of elites they are fighting to oust.

BAGHDAD - Iraqi Prime Minister-designate Mustafa Kadhemi announced late Tuesday that a government cabinet had been selected in a bid to end months of political deadlock, and is awaiting parliamentary approval.

The former intelligence chief was tasked by President Barham Saleh last week to do what two previous nominees have failed to do: forming a government that members of parliament approve.

The PM-designate said that negotiations are currently under way with political blocs over the selected cabinet, but fell short of revealing the names of the ministers participating.

He added that among his top priorities was to engage in a serious dialogue with the United States regarding their military presence in the country, stressing that ‘Iraq is not an arena for settling scores’.

Washington said last week that it would hold talks with its allies in Baghdad to review their military and economic relations.

He went on to say that dialogue would also be engaged with the various Iraqi factions with the aim of ‘establishing a national vision through which we can build the institutions of the state in a sound manner.’

"We have no choice but to work on a comprehensive Iraqi national project, which transcends sub-identities, whether ethnic or sectarian," he said, vowing to appeal to both the Arab and Islamic worlds, in accordance with national interests.

Kadhemi also spoke about the economic crisis currently crippling the country amid the coronavirus pandemic and slumping oil prices.

“This crisis requires us to take firm and strong measures in order to confront it. We must also contain the repercussions of COVID-19 and hold elections as soon as possible.”

“I can say that I am a crisis Prime Minister,” he added.

Finding support

Five Shiite blocs have already announced their support of Kadhemi, headed by the “Al-Fath” coalition (48 out of 329) led by Hadi al-Amiri, the “State of Law” coalition (26 out of 329) led by Nouri al-Maliki, and the stream of wisdom led by Ammar al-Hakim (19 out of 329).

Kadhemi is the third PM-designate in charge of forming a government, after Adnan al-Zurfi and Muhammad Allawi, who withdrew in early March after failing to persuade Sunni, Kurdish and some Shiite factions to back him.

The new cabinet lineup will likely be presented to parliament before the start of Ramadan on April 23, a time after which street and civil society organisations have vowed to resume protests following the easing of social distancing measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.

On social media, Iraqis have unveiled plans to return to demonstrating with a vengeance against what they deem a corrupt political system, under the hashtag #Million_After_Block.

Kadhemi has expressed his admiration of protestors and their bravery, but people took to the streets to immediately reject his candidacy regardless, viewing him as part of the same set of elites they have been fighting to oust.

Iraqis have also been outspokenly sceptical of coronavirus statistics coming from the government.

As of April 14, the country has registered 1,400 cases and 78 deaths, according to the health ministry.