Iraqi premier nominates two new cabinet ministers in bid to end deadlock

Abdul Mahdi selects new education minister after previous holder was accused of family ties to ISIS

FILE - In this Oct. 24, 2018 file photo, then Prime Minister-designate Adel Abdul-Mahdi, center, arrives to the parliament building, in the heavily guarded Green Zone, in Baghdad, Iraq. Abdul-Mahdi told reporters at a press conference on Monday, Dec. 24, 2018, that his government could deploy troops inside Syria, in the latest fallout from the U.S. decision to withdraw from the war-torn country. The prime minister said his government is "considering all the options" to protect Iraq from threats across its borders. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban, File)
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Iraq's prime minister recommended two candidates to head the education and justice ministries on Monday in an attempt to take one step towards ending months of political deadlock over the formation of a new government.
Adel Abdul Mahdi on Monday addressed a letter to Parliament Speaker Mohammad Al Halbousi, calling on the speaker to present the two candidates to parliament for a vote of confidence, according to a copy of the letter seen by The National. 
The proposed candidates have been vetted by The National Security and Integrity Commission, a government body tasked with fighting corruption, the letter said.


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Parliament is expected to convene on Tuesday to discuss the federal budget, but it remains unclear whether parliamentarians will vote on the new candidates.
The premier nominated Savana Al Hamdani as Minister of Education, after his previous candidate, Shaima Al Hayali, submitted her resignation a week into her ministerial role, due to allegations that her brother was a senior ISIS figure.
Ms Al Hayali, an academic from Mosul, denied that her brother, Laith Al Hayali, was affiliated with the group. "ISIS forced everyone in Mosul to work for them, threatening those who refused to join," she said on Twitter. 
She was the only woman in Mr Abdul Mahdi's cabinet. 
She said that she would leave it up to the premier to either accept or reject her resignation. By naming a new education minister, Mr Abdul Mahdi has clearly decided to replace her, in light of the accusations. 
For the post of justice minister, Mr Abdul Mahdi named Arkan Bibani, a judge who presides over Kirkuk's court of cassation.
Judge Bibani, 44, said on Tuesday, that he is an independent figure that is not affiliated to any political party. 
Both the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) have opposed his nomination. 
The Kurdish parties claim that one of their members should be named to the post which they say is part of their quota in government. 
Mr Abdul Mahdi has failed to form a 22-minister cabinet since he was named prime minister in October.
He has yet to nominate candidates to head the defence and interior ministries. Both posts remain vacant as Iraqi officials continue to disagree over who should be nominated to the two posts.

The lack of appointments is due to political infighting and horsetrading. 
The delay in forming a government raise concerns about the stability of a country that has emerged from a bitter battle against ISIS and internal armed conflict. 
Baghdad faces staggering domestic problems, including high unemployment, corruption, poor public services and rebuilding after a devastating battle against ISIS.
Lack of good governance has been central to Iraq's dire problems, with international bodies routinely ranking the country poorly on lists of failing states.