Clock ticks down for Iraq’s prime ministerial nominee

Mustafa Al Kadhimi shows no signs of overcoming opposition to his appointment as premier

An image grab from a handout video released by the Iraqi Prime Minster's Office shows Prime Minister-designate Mustafa Kadhemi addressing the Iraqi people in a televised speech in the capital Baghdad, on April 9, 2020. Iraqi President nominated 53-year-old spy chief Kadhemi on April 9 as the country's third prime minister-designate this year, moments after his predecessor ended his bid to form a government, amid a budget crisis brought on by the collapse in world oil prices and the spread of the novel coronavirus. - RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO /IRAQI PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICE " - NO MARKETING - NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
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Iraqi politics has entered a crunch week that could see either a new government led by a figure allied with Washington or a deepening of its crisis amid oil price setbacks.

Prime Minister-designate Mustafa Al Kadhimi has until May 9 to win a vote of confidence in Parliament after being chosen for the job by President Barham Salih last month.

But there has been a deafening silence since he submitted his manifesto to the house last Wednesday.

Mustafa Al Kadhimi is Iraq's new prime minister-designate

Mustafa Al Kadhimi is Iraq's new prime minister-designate

Mr Al Kadhimi's image as man untainted by corruption appeared to overcome the distrust of the Shiite figures in power.

He was the national intelligence chief since 2016 and was earlier known as a human rights campaigner and a political writer.

But Mr Al Kadhimi has not been able to shake his lack of support from the powers, said Mohammad Al Saidali, a parliamentarian from the mostly Sunni province of Nineveh who supports him.

Mr Al Saidali was referring to groups linked to militias supported by Iran, who hold sway in Parliament.

They initially indicated that they would not oppose Mr Al Kadhimi when he was named to form a cabinet on April 9.

Ten days later the same groups accused Mr Al Kadhimi of trying to monopolise cabinet appointments and of undermining the consensual style of the political class who dominate the state.

“The wheels of choosing a government are very slow,” Mr Saidali, a former education minister, told the official news agency.

Mr Al Kadhimi's manifesto pledges to contain the flood of weapons into Iraq, curb corruption and hold early elections, similar to the two nominees before him who failed to satisfy the Shiite power brokers.

The manifesto was mostly a symbolic move, showing that he was remaining active during Ramadan, a time known for lack of significant political action in the Middle East.

Mr Saidali said he hoped Mr Al Kadhimi’s nomination would not prove a “waste of time” like that of his two predecessors as “Iraq teeters on the verge of collapse”.

Iraq, one of Opec’s top exporters, is ravaged by corruption that fosters mass poverty and makes its oil wealth look more of a disadvantage than a boon for human development.

The two previous appointments who failed to form a cabinet improved the prospects of caretaker prime minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, an economist, to stay in power.

At 78, Mr Abdul Mahdi is almost 30 years older than Mr Al Kadhimi and is regarded as a more pragmatic politician.

A nonviolent protest movement removed Mr Abdul Mahdi in November but in a caretaker capacity he helped to manage a crackdown on demonstrators, in which security troops and loyalist militias killed hundreds of civilians.

In recent months, Mr Abdul Mahdi sought closer links with Iran. The coming few days will show whether Mr Al Kadhimi has been outmanoeuvred.