Iraqi court voids PM Abadi's cabinet reshuffle

Iraqi court voids PM Abadi's cabinet reshuffle
3 min read
29 June, 2016
A court ruling on Wednesday effectively turned back the Iraqi political clock to the pre-April status quo: no approved new ministers and Salim al-Juburi retains his position as parliament speaker.
Haider al-Abadi pushed for Iraq's current party-affiliated cabinet to be replaced by technocrats [Getty]
An Iraqi court has dealt a blow to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's efforts to replace a cabinet dominated by entrenched political parties, invalidating the session that approved new ministers.

But it also settled the issue of whether parliament speaker Salim al-Juburi retains his job – a question that had resulted in two rival claimants to the position – by scrapping another session at which lawmakers voted to sack him.

The sessions were held during a chaotic month for Iraqi politics in which lawmakers failed to approve all but a handful of new ministers proposed by Abadi, angering protesters who eventually stormed parliament.

With the ruling, the court effectively turns back the Iraqi political clock to the pre-April status quo: no new ministers have been approved, and Juburi is confirmed in his position.

"The federal court decided to invalidate the parliamentary sessions of April 14 and 26," higher judicial council spokesman Abdelsattar Bayraqdar said in a statement on Tuesday.

The first session, at which lawmakers voted to sack Juburi, lacked the necessary quorum, with only 131 MPs present, a judicial official said.

The second, in which lawmakers voted to accept some of Abadi's cabinet nominees, took place in an atmosphere "inconsistent with freedom of opinion" as guards entered the session and some MPs were prevented from attending, the official said.

"The ministerial nominees approved in the parliamentary session on April 28 have all returned to their former positions," a source close to the prime minister told The New Arab.

The court ruled parliament speaker Salim al-Juburi retains his job after MPs voted in April to sack him [AFP]

"They had not assumed office even after the vote," the source added.

The Iraqi prime minister had pushed for Iraq's current party-affiliated cabinet to be replaced by technocrats, but faced significant opposition from powerful political forces that rely on control of ministries for patronage and funds.

"Parliament will now resume work following a temporarily suspension of sessions," member of the parliamentary legal committee Salim Chawki told The New Arab.

"The court's decision puts an end to a major row resulting from the cabinet line-up voted for in the April," Chawki said.

"It is important that all factions accept the court's ruling, which cannot be challenged or revoked," he added.

Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr organised demonstrations calling for a government of technocrats, and his supporters have breached the fortified Green Zone area, where the government is headquartered, multiple times in recent months.

Sadr halted the protests for the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, but has called for a major demonstration after it ends next week, which will increase pressure for the fractious parliament to take action.

The political chaos has paralysed parliament at a time when Iraq faces a slew of challenges, including a war against the Islamic State group, an economic crisis caused by slumping oil prices, and abysmal public services that have long angered citizens.

Agencies contributed to this report