Iraq’s ruling coalition threatens to withdraw support for Abadi’s reforms

Members of the State of Law coalition urged Abadi to consult more widely before ordering reforms

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More than 60 members of Iraq’s ruling coalition will seek to withdraw parliamentary support for Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s reforms if he does not respond within 72 hours to their demands for wider consultation, parliamentarians said.

Growing political tensions could undermine efforts to tackle an economic crisis and form a united front in the war against ISIS militants, who pose the biggest security threat to Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Members of the State of Law coalition delivered a letter to Abadi on Tuesday urging him to consult more widely before ordering reforms.

A meeting with the premier scheduled for Wednesday night was cancelled after lawmakers decided to wait for a written response from Abadi, they told Reuters.

“If we do not get a written answer, the next step will be going to parliament and pushing for a decision to withdraw the authorization for reforms from Prime Minister Abadi,” said one lawmakers from the bloc, who declined to be named.

So far, there are no signs that MPs intend to seek a parliamentary vote of no confidence to remove Abadi, a British-educated engineer who returned to Iraq after Saddam was ousted.

Abadi’s spokesman declined to comment, describing the matter as party-related. He previously characterized the lawmakers’ comments as personal views unrepresentative of the coalition’s official position.

Abadi announced a reform campaign in August after protests erupted over graft and poor water and electricity services in Iraq, a leading OPEC oil producer.

Parliament then voted unanimously to approve the measures, which seek to scrap senior political offices that have become a vehicle for patronage for some of the most powerful people in Iraq.

But the reforms, which are also intended to combat graft and incompetence that have undermined the battle against militancy, have met with resistance from some politicians who regard them as unconstitutional and an overreaching of Abadi’s powers.

Some of the measures have been implemented, while others appear to have stalled. Iraq’s three vice presidents, whose positions were to be cut, remain in place.

Growing frustration

Another MP who signed Tuesday’s letter said there was growing frustration among Abadi’s political partners - in and out of the State of Law - who say he takes critical steps without consulting them.

“Every decision taken by the government on reforms should pass through multiple circles of discussion,” said the lawmaker, who also declined to be named. “Taking unilateral and improvised decisions - and that is what Abadi is doing now - could lead the country into a dark tunnel.”

When he took office in September 2014, Abadi was seen as a consensus builder who could heal divisions between Iraq’s Shites, Sunnis and Kurds.

Many of the lawmakers who signed the letter are supporters of Abadi’s predecessor, Nour al-Maliki, whom critics branded as a polarising and authoritarian figure, allegations he denies.

Senior officials have said they are not consulted about Abadi’s reforms and often learn about them through the media.

Several MPs said Abadi’s decision this month to cut the salaries of government employees, prompted by a decline in revenues caused by a drop in oil prices, had encouraged the coalition members to confront Abadi.

Small protests over the cuts have been staged in several Iraqi cities.

A third MP, who also requested anonymity, said many of the signatories belonged to Abadi’s Dawa Party and the Badr Organisation, a political organization with an armed wing led by Hadi al-Amiri, one of the most powerful figures in Iraq.

He said four or five topics were raised in the letter, but declined to detail them.

Asked if the issue could lead to conflict between Abadi and the State of Law, the third lawmaker said: “If he doesn’t respond in writing, I think it will.”

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