Iraq president appoints Mohammed Allawi as new prime minister

Iraqi President Barham Salih has appointed Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi as the country’s new prime minister, ending more than two months of political deadlock.

Saturday’s announcement comes as Iraqis continue anti-government protests for a fourth consecutive month, and two months after former Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi resigned under pressure from the streets.

Allawi must form a new government within a month and would run the country until new elections could be held.

President Salih had told Iraq’s divided parliament that he would name his own candidate unless it nominated someone by February 1.

In a video posted on Twitter on Saturday, 65-year-old Allawi said Salih had named him and that he would form a new government in line with protesters’ demands.

“I decided the first to do was to speak to you [Iraqi people] directly, before I address anyone else because my authority comes from you,” he said.

“This is your country, this is your right … all we have to do is execute your demands. We have to protect you instead of repressing you,” he added.

In his address, Allawi also pledged to restore the country’s battered economy and fight corruption.

Allawi’s selection was the product of months of private talks between rival parties.

Three Iraqi officials told The Associated Press news agency Allawi’s selection had been agreed by rival Iraqi factions earlier on Saturday.

‘Continue with the protests’

In the pre-recorded video, Allawi called on protesters to continue with their uprising against corruption and said he would quit if the blocs insisted on imposing names of ministers in his government. 

“If it wasn’t for your sacrifices and courage there wouldn’t have been any change in the country,” he said addressing anti-government protesters. “I have faith in you and ask you to continue with the protests.”

Allawi was born in Baghdad and served as communications minister first in 2006 and again between 2010-2012. He resigned from the post the second time after a dispute with former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Parliament is expected to put his candidacy to a vote in its next session, at which point he would have 30 days to formulate a government programme and select a cabinet of ministers.

Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan, reporting from Baghdad, said there is a long way to go before Allawi is approved on the streets by the protesters.

“He needs to win over the parliament,” Khan said.

“It’s likely that … they [parties] couldn’t agree on anybody else so they’ve had to circle back to Mohammed Tawfik Allawi and say … we’re going to have to take this seriously and talk about this,” he said.

Demonstrators in Iraq have been calling for new faces and new names to lead the country.

Allawi’s nomination has divided protestors, with some rallying in support, and others rejecting him as prime minister. 

Mohammed Allawi, rejected!” some protestors chanted from Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, the epicentre of protests.

Yousef Abd, a 25-year-old protestor, said there is “no doubt we reject Allawi in the position of prime minister”.

“If the government insists on forcing him on us we will definitely escalate things,” he told Al Jazeera from Tahrir Square.

Test of ‘independence’

Sajad Jiyad, managing director of Bayan Centre, a think tank, told Al Jazeera there has been an agreement between the largest parties in Parliament to nominate Allawi.

“Now that has happened we can expect a lot of negotiation around cabinet formation and this will be a test to see how much independence Allawi has and how much support for his nominees to the cabinet he can get from the parties in Parliament,” he said.

Jiyad added that protestors who have rejected Allawi’s nomination believe he will be “beholden to the same political system they accuse of corruption and are protesting against”.

Political analyst Sarmad al-Bayati, said it is still too early to see what affect the appointment of Allawi will have on the Iraqi scene.

“Allawi was not a new name to be suggested as a candidate … But I don’t think he represents the aspirations of the Iraqi people,” al-Bayati told Al Jazeera.

“He will probably face the same limitations that Adel Abdul Mahdi experienced,” he noted.

According to the constitution, a replacement for Abdul Mahdi should have been identified fifteen days after his resignation in early December. Instead, it has taken rival blocs nearly two months of jockeying to select Allawi as their consensus candidate.

Abdul Mahdi’s rise to power was the product of a provisional alliance between parliament’s two main blocs – Sairoon, led by Shia leader Moqtada al-Sadr, and Fatah, which is headed by Hadi al-Amiri and includes leaders associated with the paramilitary Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF, or Hasdh al-Shaabi).

Additional reporting by Linah Alsaafin from Baghdad.

Article source: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/02/iraq-president-appoints-mohammed-allawi-pm-state-tv-200201150554113.html