Long wait is over ... now Iraq’s PM has 30 days to form a govt

President Barham Salih, right, walks out of the Iraqi parliament with prime minister designate Adel Abdul Mahdi, second left, on Tuesday, October 2. (AFP)
Updated 04 October 2018
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Long wait is over ... now Iraq’s PM has 30 days to form a govt

  • New President Barham Salih handed Abdul Mahdi the difficult responsibility only hours after being elected
  • Abdul Mahdi has just 30 days to navigate tangled Iraqi politics and form a government

BAGHDAD: Veteran Iraqi politician and now prime minister designate Adel Abdul Mahdi Wednesday began the tough task of forming the next government, seeking to overcome sharp differences and unite fractious political parties.
In a surprise move late Tuesday, new President Barham Salih handed Abdul Mahdi — seen as an independent — the difficult responsibility only hours after being elected.
It comes as several different blocs in the Iraqi parliament are jostling for power following the May elections — in-fighting which had so far stymied the formation of a new government.
The largest bloc traditionally appoints the prime minister and presides over the formation of the next government.
But the exact contours of a new governing coalition are yet to be drawn.
Outgoing prime minister Haider Al-Abadi threw in the towel last month after deadly unrest in the southern city of Basra cost his fragile alliance the support of populist Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr.
Sadr’s list won the largest share of seats in the May polls. And after dumping Abadi, it swung behind the pro-Iran bloc led by Hadi Al-Ameri’s Conquest Alliance — a coalition of anti-militant veterans close to Tehran.

A spokesman for Conquest Alliance, Ahmad Assadi, told reporters late Tuesday that “the largest coalition resolved the issue by naming the prime minister” hinting his bloc had supported Abdul Mahdi’s nomination, but without offering up any concrete evidence.
Iraq has a proportional system designed to prevent a slide back into dictatorship following the 2003 ouster of late dictator Saddam Hussein.
The largely ceremonial role of president, now taken by the 58-year-old Salih, has been reserved for the Kurds since Iraq’s first multi-party elections in 2005.
Under the power-sharing deal, the post of prime minister is held by a Shiite, while the speaker of parliament is Sunni Arab — a post filled last month by Mohammed Al-Halbusi.
The 76-year-old Abdul Mahdi, a former Iraqi vice president, has proven political credentials and is seen in Iraqi circles as an independent.
In a country long a political battleground between the US and Iran as they fight for influence, he is regarded as a rare figure of consensus.
An economist by training, he was once a senior member of a party close to Iran. But he has also won the backing of US and European leaders.
In 2014, Abdul Mahdi took up the post of oil minister under Abadi before resigning two years later.
Now he has just 30 days to navigate tangled Iraqi politics and form a government. If he fails, then another candidate will have to be chosen to pick up the baton.
A Shiite and native of Baghdad, he is nonetheless credited with having good relations with a number of Kurdish leaders. This could be crucial, coming a year after a disastrous referendum in which Iraqi Kurdistan voted overwhelmingly for independence.
The vote triggered a punishing backlash from Baghdad, which imposed economic penalties and sent federal troops to push Kurdish forces out of oil fields vital for the region’s economy.
Under a tacit accord between the region’s two main factions, the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the PUK hold the federal presidency and the KDP the post of Iraqi Kurdistan president.
But the Iraqi Kurdish presidency has been left vacant since KDP leader Masoud Barzani’s mandate ended following the September 2017 referendum that he championed.
In a bitter dispute for power, Barzani had backed for president Fuad Hussein, his 72-year-old former chief of staff and veteran of the opposition to Saddam.
But in a blow to Barzani, the post went to Salih, a moderate who has served both as Iraqi deputy premier and Kurdish prime minister.
He was part of an interim authority put in place by the US following the 2003 invasion that ousted Saddam.
He later became deputy prime minister under Nuri Al-Maliki then returned to the Kurdish regional capital Irbil in 2009 to become head of the Kurdistan government.
Meanwhile, results are also due late Wednesday after Sunday’s polls for the Kurdish parliament.


Up to 85,000 children ‘dead of starvation or disease in Yemen’

Updated 33 min 47 sec ago
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Up to 85,000 children ‘dead of starvation or disease in Yemen’

  • As many as 85,000 infants under the age of five may have died from starvation or disease since 2015
  • The UN has warned that up to 14 million people are at risk of famine in Yemen

DUBAI: As many as 85,000 infants under the age of five may have died from starvation or disease since 2015 in war-ravaged Yemen, humanitarian organization Save the Children said Wednesday.
It said the estimate was based on data compiled by the United Nations, which has warned that up to 14 million people are at risk of famine in Yemen.
“Dozens are starving to death and it’s entirely preventable,” said Tamer Kirolos, Save the Children’s country director in Yemen.
“Children who die in this way suffer immensely as their vital organ functions slow down and eventually stop,” he said.
“Their immune systems are so weak they are more prone to infections with some too frail to even cry. Parents are having to witness their children wasting away, unable to do anything about it.”
Meanwhile, UN envoy Martin Griffiths prepares to hold talks with the Houthis in the capital Sanaa during a visit aimed at laying the groundwork for peace talks in Sweden.