Iraqi prime minister-designate meets anti-government protesters

Mohammed Allawi pledges to involve activists in next government

epa08187567 A handout photo made available by the Iraqi Prime Minister's Office shows newly appointed Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Allawi delivering a spech at his office in Baghdad, Iraq, 01 February 2020 (issued 02 February 2020). Iraqi President Barham Salih has named former communications minister Mohammed Allawi as the country's new prime minister on 01 February.  EPA/IRAQI PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICE HANDOUT  HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES
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Iraqi Prime Minister-designate Mohammed Allawi has met a delegation of anti-government protests to try to quell public anger at the country’s political class.

Mr Allawi promised them they would have at least one ministry in his government, and that he would compensate for wrongs committed against them.

Iraq has been rocked by anti-government protests since October,  demanding an overhaul of the political system.

Demonstrators have rejected the nomination of Mr Allawi, who they regard as a product of the system against which they have been protesting.

But since his designation on February 1, he encouraged them to keep up their demonstration and promised to support the movement.

“Mr Allawi pledged to involve the protesters in his government, promising them at least one ministry and an advisory body to monitor the implementation of their demands," Hisham Al Hashimi, an Iraqi analyst and security adviser, said on Twitter.

He also proposed to include three to five women activists in his Cabinet, and demonstrators could have a say in up to five ministerial nominations.

Mr Allawi has until March 2 to form the next government.

It will be subject to a vote of confidence by Parliament and if it passes, he will formally take up his role as prime minister.

Until then, Mr Allawi is not able to introduce many of the reforms he pledged, which also include establishing an office for national dialogue in 15 governorates across the country.

It will seek to ensure that discussions will continue between society and the government, Mr Al Hashimi said.

“Mr Allawi pledged to release Iraqis detained for demonstrating, compensate the families of those killed in protest-related violence and work with the UN to implement the demonstrators' demands,” Mr Al Hashimi said.

Mr Allawi, 65, was communications minister twice since the US-led invasion of 2003 but stepped down both times, blaming corruption in the government.

The protesters' demands include fighting corruption, improving public services and providing employment opportunities.

Transparency International says Iraq is the 16th most corrupt country.

Mr Al Hashemi said Mr Allawi promised the delegation of protesters he would take on embezzlement and the bloated public sector by changing up to 170 "acting" government officials and 450 directors general in the ministries.

A day earlier, he was ignored by the top US commander for the Middle East, who slipped quietly into Iraq in a bid to salvage relations with Iraq's leadership.

Marine Gen Frank McKenzie was the most senior US military official to visit since an American drone strike in Baghdad last month killed a top Iranian general, enraging the Iraqis.

Gen McKenzie met departing Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, President Barham Salih, and Speaker of the House Salim Al Jabouri, but did not visit Mr Allawi.