Iraq PM scraps 11 cabinet posts in reforms drive

BAGHDAD, IRAQ- Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the removal of 11 cabinet posts Sunday in the first concrete step of a reform drive aimed at curbing corruption and streamlining the government.
Abadi scrapped three deputy premier positions and four ministries, and merged four more ministries with others, a statement from his office said, reducing the size of the cabinet by a third.

He removed the human rights ministry, the ministry of state for women's affairs, the ministry of state for provincial and parliamentary affairs, and a third ministry of state.
And he merged the science and technology ministry with higher education, environment with health, municipalities with reconstruction and housing, and tourism and antiquities with culture.
Abadi rolled out a reform plan on August 9 in response to weeks of protests and a call from the country's top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, and parliament approved the programme along with additional measures two days later.
Sistani, who is revered by millions of Shiites, then called for judicial reform on Friday, and Abadi echoed that call later in the day.
One of the most drastic of Abadi's proposals was the elimination of the vice president and deputy premier posts.
While Abadi may be able to do away with the deputy premiers, the constitution would need to be amended to fully eliminate the post of vice president -- something unlikely to happen at this time.
Amid a major heatwave that has seen temperatures top 50 degrees Celsius (120 degrees Fahrenheit), protesters have railed against the poor quality of services, especially power outages that leave just a few hours of government-supplied electricity per day.
Thousands of people have turned out in Baghdad and cities in the Shiite south to vent their anger and pressure the authorities to make changes.
Their demands were given a boost last week when Sistani called for Abadi to take "drastic measures" against corruption, saying the "minor steps" he had announced were not enough.
Various parties and politicians have sought to align themselves with the protesters apparently to benefit from the movement and mitigate the risk to themselves.
Even with popular support for change, the entrenched nature of corruption and the fact that parties across the political spectrum benefit from it will make any efforts extremely difficult.
Abadi warned Wednesday that the reform process "will not be easy; it will be painful," and that corrupt individuals would seek to impede change.

Monday, August 17th 2015

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