In a unanimous vote today, the Iraqi parliament has agreed to Prime Minister Hayder Abadi’s reform plan, which he insists will eliminate corruption of the government by eliminating sectarian quotas and a large number of high-ranking government positions, including most of his deputies.
The vote effectively removes most of the remaining Sunni Arabs from Iraq’s government, and also some of Abadi’s most powerful Shi’ite rivals. After the endorsement of the move by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, it’s passage was ensured, and not a single MP chose to vote against it.
Real questions remain over how this will all work in practice, as while it eliminates “set-aside” posts that have encouraged a culture of political corruption, it also dramatically centralizes power under Abadi’s control, and eliminates most of the serious checks on his power. Instead of eliminating abuse of power, this may simply centralize the abuse in Abadi’s office.
Abadi’s predecessor, Nouri al-Maliki, had tried to marginalize the Sunni Arab political leadership by charging them with terrorism, but to limited effect. Abadi’s move is more direct and far-reaching than this, and ironically also puts Maliki, now one of his deputies, out of a job.
It is almost certain to fuel more Sunni resentment in the long-run, as it consigns them to the permanent opposition with no chance of real power.