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Fears over Constitutional Vacuum after Iraq Parliament Postpones Confidence Vote

Fears over Constitutional Vacuum after Iraq Parliament Postpones Confidence Vote

Friday, 28 February, 2020 - 09:15
This handout photograph released by the Iraqi President's Office on February 1, 2020 shows Mohammed Allawi reading the decree to appoint him as Iraq's new premier, during a meeting with President Salih. AFP
Baghdad - Hamza Mustafa

The Iraqi parliament’s failure to approve the government of Prime Minister-designate Mohammed Allawi has threatened to prolong the country’s months-long crisis and create a constitutional vacuum.

Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi adjourned on Thursday a session to approve the cabinet proposed by Allawi because of a lack of quorum, after lawmakers who opposed his nominees boycotted the session.

Halbousi set another session for Saturday.

Allawi failed on Thursday to convince the 329-member parliament to have quorum for a vote of confidence on his proposed cabinet that is made up of 18 ministers.

Following talks with Halbousi and the Speaker’s deputy, Hassan al-Kaabi, the PM-designate made changes to his proposed government and kept the ministries of defense, interior, finance and justice vacant pending consensus among rival political parties.

Former Minister of Displaced Jassem al-Jaf, who is a member of the Kurdish delegation that is holding consultations with Allawi, told Asharq Al-Awsat that there are ongoing discussions with the premier-designate.

“There’s still an opportunity to achieve a formula that is acceptable by all sides,” he said.

However, Irada movement member MP Hussein Arab told the newspaper that it is difficult to have consensus on a government accepted by the parliament.

“Ongoing differences among political parties and blocs make it difficult to approve Allawi’s proposed cabinet,” said Arab.

Political analyst Bahaa Alaeddine, a former adviser to the Iraqi president, was more optimistic, saying the PM-designate could receive the backing of the majority of lawmakers if he knew how to negotiate with the political blocs.

Allawi issued a long list of promises when he was nominated this month: to hold early elections, punish people who killed protesters, end foreign interference and check the power of non-state armed groups - an ambitious program for a prime minister who has no particular party behind him.

But there are fears of a constitutional vacuum if Allawi failed to win parliament’s vote of confidence on Saturday.

The constitutional deadline for his cabinet’s approval is Monday. If the deadline expires with no new government, either the president would take over pending political consensus on a new PM-designate, or the head of state would appoint a new figure to form the cabinet.

The country faces a mass protest movement that broke out in October and brought down former Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi two months later. His cabinet has stayed on in a caretaker capacity, however.

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