Iraqi parliament approves new election law, deadlock over PM remains

An Iraqi student shouts slogans during ongoing anti-government protests, in Basra, Iraq, December 24, 2019. (Reuters)
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Updated 24 December 2019

Iraqi parliament approves new election law, deadlock over PM remains

  • Mass protests have gripped Iraq since Oct. 1 and protesters, most of them young, are demanding an overhaul of a political system
  • The new election law passed by parliament will allow voters to elect individual lawmakers

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s parliament approved on Tuesday a new electoral law, a key demand of protesters to make elections fairer, but political deadlock is still holding up the selection of an interim prime minister.
Mass protests have gripped Iraq since Oct. 1 and protesters, most of them young, are demanding an overhaul of a political system they see as profoundly corrupt and keeping most Iraqis in poverty. More than 450 people have been killed.
“In the name of Iraq, and in the name of the Iraqi people, in the name of the martyrs, in the name of all those who sacrificed, in the name of the displaced, the law has been approved,” Council of Representatives Speaker Mohammed Al-Halbousi said after the vote.
The new election law passed by parliament will allow voters to elect individual lawmakers instead of choosing from party lists, and have each member of parliament represent a specific electoral district instead of groups of legislators representing entire provinces.
Protesters have demanded not just a new electoral law, but also the removal of the entire political class and an independent prime minister with no party affiliation.
Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi resigned last month under pressure from the street demonstrations, but has remained in office in a caretaker capacity. The constitutional deadline to name a replacement expired on Thursday.


Tunisian premier announces major cabinet reshuffle

Updated 16 January 2021

Tunisian premier announces major cabinet reshuffle

  • The new line-up, which does not include any women, must be approved by parliament
  • “The aim of this reshuffle is to achieve greater efficiency in the work of the government,” Mechichi said

TUNIS: Tunisia’s Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi announced on Saturday a major cabinet reshuffle affecting 12 ministries, in the wake of high-profile sackings.
“The aim of this reshuffle is to achieve greater efficiency in the work of the government,” Mechichi said at a press conference in the capital Tunis.
The new line-up, which does not include any women, must be approved by parliament.
A few hours before the announcement, Mechichi had met with President Kais Saied, who insisted the “integrity” of proposed ministers should “raise no doubt,” according to a statement from the presidency.
“There is no place (in the government) for people who are subject to legal proceedings” or to “doubts about their background or their behavior that could undermine the state and the credibility of its institutions and the legitimacy of its decisions,” Saied said.
One of the officials to be replaced is former environment minister Mustapha Aroui, who was sacked and arrested in December in a scandal over hundreds of containers of household waste shipped from Italy.
Chiheb Ben Ahmed, CEO of the Tunisian Export Promotion Center (CEPEX), was proposed as his replacement.
Cabinet chief Walid Dhahbi has been put forward as interior minister to replace Taoufik Charfeddine.
The former lawyer and pillar of Saied’s election campaign was sacked earlier this month over high-level staffing changes he sought to make to some security agencies, according to a previous statement from Mechichi.
The reshuffle also impacts the ministries of health, justice, industry, energy and agriculture.
Ten years after the uprising that led to the fall of long-time dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia has successfully transformed into a democracy — albeit one still riven by corruption and economic pain.
The country has had nine governments in 10 years, but the transfers of power have been peaceful.
However, since a general election in 2019, the political class has been more fragmented than ever and paralyzed by infighting, fueling discontent over the continued economic malaise, which has been exacerbated by the novel coronavirus pandemic.