By Edward Yeranian
The Iraq parliament has voted to approve the new government of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, although the key ministries of interior, defense and national security were left vacant.
The vote to approve the new Iraqi government brought a sigh of relief to many as it put an end to a more than eight months of political turmoil.
Iraq’s top leaders, foreign ambassadors and members of parliament watched as Parliament Speaker Osama Nujeifi called the session to order. Former Prime Ministers Ibrahim al Jaffari and Iyad Allawi addressed the gathering, with Jaffari calling the new government an “historic accomplishment.” He urged Iraqis to open their hearts and seek the pardon of their brethren for what he called the many trials and tribulations of the recent past.
Former Prime Minister Allawi, whose rivalry with Prime Minister Maliki led to the lengthy political vacuum, told legislators the Iraqi nation is its people and its people are the Iraqi nation. He called formation of the government a new beginning, and asked Iraqis to unite, join hands and participate in governing the country.
Maliki read out the lengthy agenda for his new government, including human rights, battling corruption, improving relations with Iraq’s neighbors, boosting security, and expanding services to the Iraqi public.
Iraqi legislators gave a show of hands to approve the government’s program before the prime minister read out his list of new ministers, one by one, for approval.
The new ministers then took the oath of office, with Maliki keeping several top posts himself, temporarily. He insisted he had done his best to form his government, but that many were angry with him, because posts were few and job-seekers numerous. He also vowed to appoint more women ministers for the remaining positions.
Analysts warn, however, that there are some negotiations ahead. The big test will be whether the members of this new national unity government, who have spent the past nine months fighting and arguing with each other, can pull together for the good of the whole country.
Analyst Marina Ottaway of the Carnegie Endowment for Peace points out there are several questions remaining to be answered now that Maliki has formed his government.
“There are two key issues now: one, what he does with the ministries that he kept in his hands for the time being, because those are crucial ministries and the second is: can a coalition that contains so many parties in it really govern? We can only wait and see on that,” said Ottaway.
Maliki’s national unity government contains representatives from each of Iraq’s main political and religious groupings, among them Shi’ites, Sunnis and Kurds. Twenty-nine of the 42 ministerial posts were filled on a permanent basis and 13 were filled temporarily.