The Kurdish bloc of the Iraqi Parliament last week denounced Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki’s decision to slim down his cabinet. Currently the government has 42 ministries and over 50 cabinet members – a number which many say is far too high to maintain government efficiency. Maliki’s decision came in a report to Parliament after 100 days of assessment. The report suggested that certain ministries that have over-lap in duties should be merged, and that cabinet members that have only ceremonial significance should be removed from office. Fewer government posts means fewer government salaries, and Maliki’s political allies in Parliament are backing his proposal. The leader of the Ahrar Party, a parliamentary ally of Maliki’s State of Law Coalition said,
“Even if the cut back affects our ministers we are ready to give up the posts…the reduction means a reduction in the financial losses of the country.”
Higher-ups in government have been taking their cues. Earlier this month Adel Abdel Mahdi, one of Iraq’s three ceremonial vice-presidents and the leader of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council bloc, bowed out of office in effort to streamline the government. The three ceremonial vice presidents under President Jalal Talabani do not hold any veto power, although they previously did. From 2006 to 2010 there were only 2 Vice Presidents, but that number grew to three until Mahdi’s resignation. Mahdi’s exit came shortly after Ayatollah Sistani publicly asked the government to stop making ceremonial government positions.
Shortly after Maliki announced his government slim-down plan, the spokesman for the Kurdish bloc decried it as a potential catalyst for political crisis. Spokesman Moayyed Tayyib said that it would de-legitimize certain political factions such as the Kurdistan Blocs Coalition.
“Only if the changes are by consensus and they do not violate the power balance between the parties, will we support Maliki’s plans.”
Meanwhile Ayad Allawi, the leader of the Iraqiyya Bloc, and Jalal Talabani are wrangling over two of the most powerful cabinet posts – The Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of the Interior. The two political leaders agreed in December that Mr. Allawi would appoint the defense minister. But Prime Minister Maliki put himself in charge of both the Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior, arguing that political instability in Iraq necessitates more time to find and vet candidates for the two positions.