Iraq offers citizens opportunity to apply online for cabinet positions

Dalia Al Aqidi, the first woman to publicly announce her application, hopes to empower Iraqi females to take office

Newly designated Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi (C) walks out of the Parliament in Baghdad on October 2, 2018.  / AFP / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE
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Iraq took the unprecedented step on Tuesday of launching an online portal for candidates to submit their nominations for ministerial posts, as a protracted government formation process continued in Baghdad.

Prime Minister designate Adel Abdul Mahdi has one month to submit a new cabinet and bring together different political factions to parliament. If he fails, another candidate will be chosen for the prime minister's post.

The first woman to publicly announce her application for the position of government spokesperson is Dalia Al Aqidi. The Iraqi journalist told The National that she has an obligation to empower Iraqi women to take office.

"I felt the urge to shed a light on Iraqi women that were pushed into the political arena by something called a 'quota'," Ms Al Aqidi said.

After the toppling of dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003, an electoral law was passed requiring a quarter of parliament’s 329 seats to be held by women.

Mrs Al Aqidi, who served as a White House correspondent for Al Arabiya and Al Hura television stations, said her application would encourage women from educated and professional backgrounds to step forward to participate in Iraq's new government, which is aiming for a more technocratic image.

"Having a woman as a government spokesperson would send a message to the whole world that Iraq has many faces in different shapes and colours," she said, adding that she aspires to represent Iraq "in the best way I can".

Both men and women can apply, and applicants must register their personal data, indicate their political orientation and state whether they belong to any political party, according the website.

"Qualified Iraqi citizens have three days to submit their resumes online for ministerial and expert posts in government," a statement from Mr Abdul Mahdi's office said.

Candidates can then choose the ministry they wish to head and must write a short statement of their vision of what makes a "successful leader" and "how to manage teams effectively".

"I will support any woman that would get this position as long as she ethical and professional," Ms Al Aqidi said.

Applicants are also asked to set out in their vision statement how they would tackle the problems facing their ministry of choice and "practical solutions" for doing so.

Mr Abdul Mahdi's new cabinet will need to address widespread civic unrest and ease standoffs across the country that has brought months of deadlock following elections in May.

He was assigned to form the new government by President Barham Salih, a secular Kurd who was elected by parliament last Monday.

The application for ministerial roles has been perceived as as a glimmer of hope for non-political actors and as a window of opportunity for the formation of a technocratic government.

"We will face challenges of forming an independent government as the complex political Iraqi map has very much shaped the country's political agenda since 2003," an Iraqi official told The National.

Mr Abdul Mahdi, previously oil and finance minister, is seen an independent who brings years of experience to the top post.

A Shiite and native of Baghdad, the premier-designate is an economist by training and has the blessing of both of Iraq's feuding foreign power brokers – Iran and the United States.

While some are sceptical about his ability to fix Iraq's troubles, his nomination has been met with optimism by others. He is the first prime minister since the fall of Saddam Hussein who is not a member of the Shiite Dawa party.

The new administration will take over a country faced with the massive challenge of reconstruction after a war against ISIS, a displacement crisis that has left millions stranded and a troubled economy.


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