News Analysis: New Iraqi PM named to form next gov't amid profound political divisions

Source: Xinhua| 2018-10-04 03:32:46|Editor: ZX
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by Jamal Hashim

BAGHDAD, Oct. 3 (Xinhua) -- The veteran politician Adel Abdul-Mahdi has been named Iraq's prime minister designate to undertake the tough task of forming the next government amid profound divisions among the country's political parties.

Late on Tuesday night, the newly-elected President of Iraq Barham Salih officially handed Mahdi, who is seen as a Shiite independent, the challenging mission of forming a government for the next four years.

Naming Mahdi as prime minister designate came amid tough political wrangling over power following the May 12 parliamentary elections, which has been hampering the formation of a new government.

One of the major barriers to the political process in the country is the formation of the largest alliance, which traditionally has the right to appoint the prime minister, but the largest alliance remains unknown.

Nevertheless, Salih named the Shiite politician Mahdi, who appeared to be the candidate of the largest alliance, as prime minister designate, after the two major coalitions in parliament, both of which claim to be the largest alliance, had agreed on this decision.

But Ghalib al-Shabander, an Iraqi political analyst, said such designation contradicts the Iraqi constitution.

"To task any person with forming the next government must be through the largest bloc as stipulated in the constitution," Shabander told Xinhua.

"Naming Adel Abdul-Mahdi came by consensus and not by the largest alliance, and then what happened contradicts the constitution," he explained.

Sabah al-Sheikh, also a political analyst, told Xinhua that Mahdi has some economic and political merits, in addition to good relations with different effective political players.

"Mahdi has distinctive relations inside Iraq with different parties, including the Kurds, Sunnis and various Shiite parties. He also has good relations with influential foreign powers in Iraq such as Iran and the United States," Sheikh said.

"Iraq has long been a political battleground between the United States and Iran. Both are fighting for influence. Such situation makes Adel Abdul-Mahdi a rare figure of consensus, who can balance the interests of his country with the interests of the conflicting powers in Iraq," he noted.

"Moreover, the Shiite Marjiyah (religious authority) did not show rejection toward Mahdi's nomination for the premiership," Sheikh added.

Mahdi's mission is not easy, as he has to select qualified, honest and professional candidates for the portfolios of his cabinet, and present his government program to deal with Iraq's various crises, the Iraqi analyst observed.

According to the Iraqi constitution, the prime minister designate has 30 days to put together a cabinet and present it to parliament for approval.

As a Shiite politician, 76-year-old Adel Abdul-Mahdi was a vice president of Iraq from 2005 to 2011. He served as the finance minister in the interim government and oil minister from 2014 to 2016.

For Najib al-Jubouri, also a political analyst, believed that Mahdi's political background and his performance in all his previous posts are not convincing enough.

"He lacks outstanding record in his previous posts, and he had background as a leading figure in the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, before splitting from the Iran-backed Shiite party. These facts made Mahdi hardly fit for being independent or a qualified technocrat," Jubouri said.

Notably, widespread corruption is one of the most thorniest issues the new Iraqi prime minister will have to face.

In Iraq, the corrupt officials and dignitaries are well protected by some powerful and leading political parties, and connected to networks of local and international companies and organizations.