Reuters International

By Saif Hameed

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq's parliament will hold an emergency session on Wednesday at the request of lawmakers who are protesting after plans by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to introduce a cabinet of technocrats to curb corruption were blocked.

Several dozen members of parliament began a sit-in on Tuesday to demand Abadi stick to his plans.

The prime minister presented a modified line-up on Tuesday after his initial cabinet list was blocked by parliament's dominant political blocs.

Abadi last month presented parliament with a list of 14 names, many of them academics, to free the ministries from the grip of a political class he has accused of using a system of ethnic and sectarian quotas instituted after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 to amass wealth and influence.

The cabinet reshuffle is part of long-promised anti-corruption measures Abadi needs to deliver or risk weakening his government as Iraqi forces mount a campaign to recapture the northern city of Mosul from Islamic State militants.

Parliament Speaker Salim al-Jabouri agreed to hold an emergency session on Wednesday, Nahida al-Daini, a Sunni lawmaker taking part in the sit-in, told Reuters.

The vote on the modified cabinet list is planned on Thursday.

"We represent 137 MPs and we seek to depose the three presidents and discuss the reforms," said Daini, referring to the top three state positions -- the president, prime minister and speaker of parliament.

The dominant blocs in the 328-member parliament back Abadi’s modified line-up, which includes some of their own candidates.

Abadi proposed the new cabinet under pressure from the clergy of the Shi'ite majority and popular discontent at the lack of basic public services in a nation facing an economic crisis caused by falling oil prices.

Many of the protesters inside parliament are supporters of powerful Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr who had organised street protests in the past weeks to pressure the prime minister on reforms, and some MPs representing the Sunni minority.

Iraq, a major OPEC exporter which sits on one of the world's largest oil reserves, ranks 161 out of 168 on Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index.

(Writing by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Janet Lawrence)


 Reuters International