By Kevin Truitte
Iraq’s Prime Minister has launched an ambitious effort to reform the structure of the Iraqi government. The move comes after protests across Iraq in early August against rampant corruption in the current government structure. This corruption has impeded Iraq’s ability to fight ISIS and has harmed infrastructural and economic development.
On August 11, the Iraqi Parliament unanimously passed a government restructuring program developed by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. The reforms, aimed at cutting government waste and limiting corruption, look to cut a number of positions. Proposed cuts include eliminating contracted advisers to the government, limiting the number of advisers to the prime minister, president, and speaker of Parliament to five, downsizing the number of ministers to 22 by combining or eliminating excess positions, eliminating the three vice presidencies, limiting government employment benefits, and giving the prime minister the power to fire regional governors and officials. The reforms come after large protests in Baghdad and the southern cities of Nasiriyah and Basra against corruption in the government, which protesters claim has resulted in lackluster services and infrastructure, causing many to be without power as a heatwave topped 50° C (122° F). Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the leading Shiite cleric in Iraq, backed the reforms, calling on the prime minister to do everything within his power to fight corruption in the country.
Iraq’s government has been marred with corruption since its formation in the years after the United States’ invasion and occupation. This corruption, greatly fostered under previous Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, is widely seen as causing the country’s failure to deal with the rise of ISIS, in addition to the disillusionment of many Iraqis toward the country’s political process. The changes have been met with widespread approval by Iraqis, although many minority Sunni are hesitant to trust the move. There is a fear that, if implemented, the reforms could be used to exclude Sunni Iraqis from political influence. The reforms are also likely to face opposition from those who gain the most from the current patronage system, such as al-Maliki and sectarian Shiite militias.
The scope of the reforms, if successful, could eliminate the current corrupt system put in place under American occupation and improve the efficiency of the Iraqi government. They could lead to improving the economy and infrastructure, which have suffered neglect, and give Iraqis greater faith in their government. Iraq’s future lies in the hands of what its government and prime minister do next, as well as on the success of the reform measures.
Kevin is the Editor of Parabellum MENA.