BAGHDAD, (Reuters) – Iraq’s parliament approved Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and his new government yesterday, nine months after an inconclusive election left politics in limbo and delayed investments to rebuild the country after years of war.
Lawmakers voted Maliki and a new multi-party slate of ministers into office, elevating Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani to deputy prime minister for energy, and leaving in place Kurdish veteran Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari.
Highlighting the ethnic and sectarian divides that pervade the war-ravaged country, parliament had to postpone the vote on Monday after last-minute factional disputes and political horse-trading over posts delayed the government’s formation. As Maliki read out the chosen ministers’ names one by one, parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi scanned the chamber for raised hands and said “approved by the majority” each time. The speaker did not ask for a show of hands from those opposing the candidate or abstaining from the vote.
In separate votes, parliament approved three deputy prime ministers as well as other cabinet ministers and the government’s programme. The government was then declared formed with Maliki as the prime minister.
Maliki acknowledged his ministerial list was not perfect.
“I do not say that this government, with all its formations, satisfies its citizens’ aspirations, nor the political blocs’, nor my ambition, nor any other person’s ambition, because it is formed … in extraordinary circumstances,” he told lawmakers.
“This is what we have, and what we have could be better than what we had if we stand by our decisions,” Maliki said.
Former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, who failed to gain enough support for a majority after his cross-sectarian Iraqiya bloc won the most seats, told the assembly his Sunni-backed coalition would participate fully in the government.
Allawi, a secular Shi’ite, has said he will join the government as head of a new national strategic policy council.
Two female lawmakers protested at Tuesday’s assembly against the absence of women in the new cabinet.