What Factors Are Delaying Iraq’s Cabinet Completion?
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What Factors Are Delaying Iraq’s Cabinet Completion?

Abdul Mahdi, who was elected the head of the government as a result of a landslide consensus among the Shiite, Sunni, Kurdish, and other political forces, was aimed to lead the country out of the predicament of the post-ISIS period. However, after six months of his election, Abdel Mahdi remains in the first stage of the process, namely struggling to complete the cabinet. Adel’s government gained the vote of confidence for 14 of the ministers on November 2018, but the posts of defense, education, judiciary, and interior have remained empty. Over the past few months, many politicians from various political and ethnic groups have highlighted the need to close the cabinet formation case by choosing the remaining ministers. The uncertainty has raised some questions. What are the obstacles ahead of choosing the new ministers? What is the outlook for the new government once the cabinet is completed? Reasons behind the delay Four factors appear to block the efforts towards filling the remaining posts. 1. The first and maybe the most fundamental factor tying the new PM’s hands in picking the new ministers is the divergent structure of the Iraqi political community, a problem characteristic of modern Iraq. The fact is that the active identity divisions over the past decades have stood base for many crises in the country, even civil war and massacres of civilians at the hand of government. In the post-Saddam and post-ISIS Iraq, the same divisions have reintroduced themselves, though in new shapes, blocking a grand agreement on the country’s major issues. The latest victim to this disunity is Abdul Mahdi. 2. Relatively deep disagreements inside political parties is another reason behind empty seats in the Adel Abel Mahdi’s cabinet. The Iraqi political community in particular and the public in general consider Abdul Mahdi the head of government advocated by Saerun Alliance and Reform and Reconstruction Coalition inside the parliament. This is while the two political blocs have transformed into main critics of the PM, as the remarks by the two blocs’ leaders suggest. Additionally, they unreasonably reject candidates of each other. 3. Formation of independent and non-state entities affecting the power and politics has been one of the main results ISIS emergence in 2014 brought to the Arab country. For the army to effectively fight the terrorist organization, Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) were founded, making remarkable sacrifices in combating the self-proclaimed caliphate led by Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, ISIS’s ringleader. Gained considerable political legitimacy and position among the public for the anti-terror fight, these entities now rise as newcomers to the political stage. They, of course, resist being removed or ignored by other parties. Showing sensitivity about the power-sharing, these forces now block approval of the rival candidates for the four posts. 4. The fourth reason undermining Abdul Mahdi’s efforts and the government is the impairment of charismatic politicians who after 2003 played a crucial role in the difficult transition period. Nouri al-Maliki, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, Ammar al-Hakim among the Shiites, Ayad Alawi, Osama al-Nujaifi, Salim al-Jabouri among the Sunnis, and Jalal Talabani and Masoud Barzani among the Kurds have been charismatic figures who over the past years lead the country through various crises by their personal compromises. But in the new conditions, they are absent from top posts or they cannot do much using their charisma. The outlook for Abdul Mahdi’s government Despite the four factors, it seems that the Iraqi politicians now agree that continuation of the current standoff will never serve the Iraqi interests, leading them to an agreement. The failure to complete the cabinet, on the one hand, will cut the popular trust in the government and the political alliances and on the other hand will cut the government’s power to make policies for home and foreign affairs. In fact, the ministries need stable management, something lacked under the shadow of acting managers. There is no escape from work to speed up the government efforts to improve the living conditions. At home, the public develop largely increasing expectations for development in reconstruction, agriculture, welfare, and education. Meeting these expectations takes a full cabinet and extensive work. In the foreign policy, some regional and international actors dislike a united and powerful Iraq as they find it detrimental to their interests. They fuel the inter-Iraqi tensions to see country rocked by the crisis, weakened, and devoid of independent will to push towards its own ambitions and goals. So, to build strong diplomacy and foreign policy, the Iraqi political parties need to unite their positions on the cabinet formation. Only if the parties make it to the consensus the government of Abdul Mahdi can successfully meet the people’s expectations in the coming three years. 

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