BAGHDAD: Iraqi President Barham Salih appointed Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi as prime minister yesterday, after squabbling parties failed to name a candidate in the two months since Adel Abdul-Mahdi was toppled by mass protests.
Allawi, who will run Iraq until early elections can be held, must form a new government within a month and will likely get stuck between powerful parties vying for cabinet posts, prolonging the political deadlock.
He said he would hold an early, internationally monitored election.
Iraqi political analyst Wathiq Al Hashimi, who is close to decision-makers, said Allawi was appointed following an agreement between Shia leader Moqtada Al Sadr and Hadi Al Amiri, leader and secretary general of the Badr Organisation, an Iranian-sponsored Shi’ite militia and political party based in Iraq.
Adil Abdul Mahdi’s rise to power was also the product of a provisional alliance between parliament’s two main blocs – Sairoon, led by Moqtada Al Sadr, and Fatah, which is headed by Hadi Al Amiri.
Allawi was born in Baghdad and served as communications minister first in 2006 and again between 2010 and 2012. He resigned from his post after a dispute with former Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki.
Kurdish parties stated as a condition that Allawi should maintain the privileges they had earned during the rule of Abdul Mahdi, while a document was leaked, including conditions dictated by political blocs for the new head of government to fulfill.
Conditions mainly featured non-objection to a deal Abdul Mahldi had signed with China and endorsement of political blocs’ candidates to assume ministerial portfolios.
This was denied by Allawi’s office, who stressed that he alone will choose his ministers. He also pledged to prosecute killers of protesters and protect protest locations, threatening to resign if political blocs impose on him conditions that hinder his government programme.
However, Iraqis no longer trust promises until they turn into a tangible action plan.
Nearly 500 protesters have been killed since October in a deadly crackdown by security forces.
Soon after the president’s announcement, protesters gathered in Baghdad and southern cities expressed opposition to Allawi’s appointment in videos posted on social media.
“Allawi is rejected,” they chanted in one video that was filmed at Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, the centre of the uprising in the Iraqi capital.
For the demonstrators, Allawi is part of the ruling elite and therefore unacceptable.
Iraq is facing its biggest crisis since the military defeat of Islamic State in 2017. A mostly Shi’ite popular uprising in Baghdad and the south challenges the country’s mainly Iran-backed Shi’ite Muslim ruling elite.
The country has been thrown into further disarray since the killing of Iranian military mastermind Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike in Baghdad on January 3. Iran responded with missile attacks on bases hosting US forces, pushing the region to the brink of an all-out conflict.