ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Nearly 1.5 years after Iraq’s Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi started to reshuffle his embattled cabinet, dozens of top positions in his administration still remain vacant including 23 posts earmarked for officials from the Kurdistan Region, according to Kurdish lawmakers in Baghdad.
High Kurdish positions within the Iraqi ministry of finances including the minister and his deputy, the Iraqi Army Chief of Staff, Deputy of the interior ministry and Director of the Iraqi Intelligence which were previously held by Kurdish officials are still vacant, some since August 2015.
But by far the most important Kurdish position in Abadi’s cabinet is the ministry of finances previously held by Hoshyar Zebari from the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) who was removed from office after a controversial vote of no-confidence in the Iraqi parliament last September.
The KDP has been reluctant to name a candidate to replace Zebari in the finance ministry despite pressure from Abadi who struggles to restore trust in his cabinet amid ongoing popular protests in Baghdad demanding his resignation along with the resignation of the parliament and the presidency.
“I don’t think Abadi will wait for ever. If the KDP chooses not to name a candidate, then the prime minister will fill the vacant posts by himself,” said Arez Abdulla a lawmaker from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).
Iraq has been governed by consensus governments since 2003 in which nearly all political parties in the country are granted cabinet positions in agreement with a quota system.
The Kurdistan Region’s five main parties are entitled to 17 percent of all high offices in the Iraqi capital apart from the posts of the country’s president and deputy of the parliament speaker.
According to KDP lawmaker Shakhawan Abdulla, Abadi has recently asked Kurdish President Masoud Barzani to name a candidate for the post of the finance ministry.
“President Barzani has not responded to the call yet and the KDP has no candidate to offer for the position,” Abdulla told Rudaw.
The young Shiite cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, with considerable influence both in the parliament and among his underprivileged Shiite supporters in the streets, has called on Abadi to carry out “fundamental reforms.”
Sadr has warned that he would “intervene” if reforms fail to bring about change and has already staged several violent sit-in protests inside the fortified Green Zone where most government offices are located.