News Analysis: New Iraqi PM named to form gov't amid political row

Source: Xinhua| 2020-03-19 04:28:48|Editor: huaxia

BAGHDAD, March 18 (Xinhua) -- Shiite politician Adnan al-Zurfi has been named Iraq's prime minister-designate to go through the tough task of forming the new government amid divisions among political parties over his nomination for the post.

On Tuesday, Iraqi President Barham Salih officially handed al-Zurfi, who is seen as a moderate Shiite voice with good ties with the West, the challenging mission of forming an interim government to prepare for early elections.

Naming al-Zurfi for the post came amid tough wrangling of political parties over power and the ongoing anti-government protests that both resulted in the resignation of outgoing Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi late last year, as well as the apology of the former Prime Mnister-designate Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi.

A few days before his nomination for the post, al-Zurfi tweeted that the upcoming Iraqi government will face four serious challenges, one of which is the external challenge -- Iraq's relations with the international community and the U.S.-led international coalition.

Other challenges include over five months of anti-government protests and the need to meet the demonstrators' demands, the financial crisis due to the dip of crude oil prices, lack of non-oil resources and the exacerbation of unemployment, as well as the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

However, al-Zurfi's road to form a new cabinet is not paved with flowers because he has to go into tough negotiations with the political blocs which are in deep division over his nomination to the prime minister post.

Raed Abbas, professor of media at al-Mustansriyah University in Baghdad, said to win the prime minister post, al-Zurfi will have to gain the support of the political blocs to approve his cabinet in the parliament.

It is difficult to go through negotiations into the political balances because all the parliamentary political blocs are ready to protect their own gains, which they processed through what is known as power-sharing agreements during the years after 2003.

"None of them (political blocs) is willing to lose their gains, and the difficulty lies in the fact that al-Zurfi will have to put in his calculations how to keep the balances of interests of the political blocs. Otherwise his cabinet will not pass in the parliament," the professor told Xinhua.

Al-Zurfi, 54, can guarantee the pass of his cabinet in the parliament if he accepts the political balances, which includes dividing the control of the government ministries in accordance with a quota system among the political parties, Abbas said.

If al-Zurfi insists to appoint competent and impartial ministers without the interference of the political parties in order to curb the widespread corruption in the country, "his cabinet will not pass and will meet the fate of his predecessor Allawi," he added.

Al-Zurfi will have to be accepted by the demonstrators who have been protesting in the streets for more than five months. They frequently announced that they refuse any politician who had participated in the previous political process to be named as the next prime minister.

However, the professor said a substantial change has occurred in the Iraqi scene, as the protesters will not agree to another failure of appointing a new PM-designate as they see that staying in protest sites without a result would be a waste of time.

For his part, Ibrahim al-Ameri, a political expert and teacher of politics at the University of Baghdad, said that Salih on Tuesday named al-Zurfi as prime minister-designate after the Shiite political blocs failed to name a candidate for the post due to weeks of political division.

The Shiite political blocs have the traditional right to name the prime minister. According the post-2003 power-sharing system, the president should be from the Kurds, the speaker from the Sunnis, and the prime minister from the Shiites.

Hours after al-Zurfi's nomination, major Shiite blocs lined up to reject him, among which are the leading blocs of Iran-backed al-Fatih Coalition, headed by Hadi al-Ameri, and the State of Law, led by Nuri al-Maliki.

Al-Ameri pointed out that the Iran-backed Shiite parties look at al-Zurfi as close to the United States, as he is an Iraq-U.S. dual national. He is seen as a comparatively secular figure despite his degree of Shiite religious study in Najaf.

Al-Zurfi's nomination came one day after the deadline of 15 days set by the Iraqi constitution for political blocs to nominate a candidate for the post of prime minister-designate to the president.

Under the Iraqi constitution, the prime minister-designate has 30 days to put together a cabinet and present it to the parliament for approval, and the parliament must approve the government program and each individual minister in separate absolute majority votes.