Iraqi premier says will seek mandate to change constitution

Iraq's prime minister to seek a popular manate to the change the country's constitution

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Iraq's prime minister announced Wednesday that will seek a popular mandate to change the country's constitution amid widespread calls to fight corruption and curtail government spending.

Haider al-Abadi said that he respects the current constitution, implemented in 2005, but believes "it is incomplete."

"Any change in the political process should be in need of a change in the constitution," al-Abadi said, speaking at a conference in Baghdad. "It is incomplete. I hope that I'll get a mandate from people to alter the constitution."

Iraq has been gripped by a major economic crisis and a crippling war with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria group, which have put a choke on domestic services in recent months. Discontent is rising, even among the country's Shiite majority, with protests springing up in cities from the capital, Baghdad, to Basra in the south. Last week, tens of thousands took to the streets across the country, calling on al-Abadi to dissolve parliament and remove corrupt officials.

On Tuesday, lawmakers unanimously approved a reform plan proposed by al-Abadi that eliminates the three vice presidencies and the three deputy prime minister posts, dismantling part of the top-heavy government established after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. The tripartite offices were intended to give equal representation to Iraq's Shiite majority and its Sunni and Kurdish minorities.

The reforms also expand the powers of the prime minister, allowing him to sack provincial governors and the heads of provincial and local councils.

The plan further sidelines Vice President Nouri al-Maliki, al-Abadi's predecessor who was widely blamed for inflaming sectarian tensions and staffing the military with underqualified supporters, paving the way for the ISIS's rapid advance across northern and western Iraq last year.

Iraq's most revered Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani called on al-Abadi last week to strike "with an iron fist" anyone who tampers with the people's money.

"It is possible to delete paragraphs from the constitution that were written in hasty way," al-Abadi said Wednesday. "The constitution has so many mistakes - we have to correct them."

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