Iraq parliament gives Maliki govt stamp of approval
The Iraqi parliament on Tuesday gave Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government a vote of confidence and adopted a 43-point programme aimed at liberalising the economy and fighting terrorism.
After more than nine months of political deadlock and wrangling, parliament in separate votes gave its approval to Maliki, three deputy prime ministers and 31 other cabinet ministers, as well as the government programme.
And it approved interim ministers for the remaining ten cabinet posts, with Maliki controlling the three security portfolios, and seven other ministers also serving as acting ministers for the vacant posts.
Maliki said he had delayed proposing the remaining ministers because he needed more time to evaluate the options, having received some CVs as late as Tuesday.
"I need more time to choose better, and I will continue to study the files to be able to choose on the basis of efficiency and professionalism," he said.
He also pointed to the lack of women candidates as a reason for the delay.
"I find myself obliged... to wait for the political entities to present women candidates," he said.
There is only one woman, Minister of State Bushra Hussein Saleh of the Shiite National Alliance, among the ministers approved on Tuesday, while there were four women in the previous government.
For his part, ex-premier Iyad Allawi, whose Iraqiya bloc won narrowly more seats than Maliki's in the March 7 election but was unable to forge a parliamentary majority, announced his support for the government.
"We wish and we hope for this government to succeed in meeting the people's requirements," Allawi said, adding that to advance this goal, "we are announcing our full support for the government."
US President Barack Obama on Tuesday congratulated Iraq on the parliamentary approval of a new government, saying it was a "significant" historic moment and represented a rejection of extremism.
Britain also welcomed the move, with British Foreign Secretary William Hague saying it would allow Baghdad to start tackling the country's problems.
Of the 35 cabinet posts that have been finally distributed, the National Alliance bloc holds 19, Iraqiya nine, the Kurdish Alliance four, and other smaller parties three.
Iraq's latest crop of ministers include Hoshyar Zebari of the Kurdish Alliance, who has been in every government since 2003, as foreign minister, outgoing deputy prime minister Rafa al-Essawi of Iraqiya as finance minister and former deputy oil minister Abdulkarim al-Luaybi as minister of oil.
Former oil minister Hussein al-Shahristani, who oversaw the signing of billions of dollars in oil deals that paved the way for global energy majors to return to Iraq more than 30 years after Saddam Hussein threw them out, is now a deputy prime minister.
Maliki's still-unfinished cabinet lineup, made up of candidates chosen from Iraq's fractious political blocs, is not the one he would have chosen if he were free to make the decision alone, his advisor Ali Moussawi said Tuesday morning.
"The new cabinet does not represent the ambition of the prime minister; it reflects the ambition of multiple entities," Moussawi told AFP, adding that "we hoped to form a majority government."
But "the result of the election went in a way that you cannot form a majority, except for a majority of a certain sect," he said, "so we must form a government of national partnership."
The results of the March 7 polls were generally split along sectarian lines, with Shiites mainly supporting Maliki's State of Law bloc or the rival but now allied National Alliance, and Sunnis mostly voting for Allawi's secular Iraqiya.
Maliki's State of Law Alliance won 89 seats, trailing Allawi's Iraqiya by two.
Neither was able to muster the majority needed to form a government, leading to more than nine months of protracted talks before a power-sharing pact was agreed on November 10.
The deal saw Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, being reappointed as president and Osama al-Nujaifi, a Sunni Arab, being named as speaker of parliament.
Talabani in turn named Maliki for a second term as prime minister on November 25, giving him 30 days to form a government. The deadline expires on Saturday.
© 2010 AFP