Call to End Sectarian Quotas for some Ministries

By Omar al-Jaffal for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraqis Call to End Sectarian Quotas for some Ministries

On Aug. 21, intellectuals and trade unionists met in a hotel in central Baghdad for a conference calling on Prime Minister-designate Haider al-Abadi, who's tasked with forming a new government, to exclude some ministries from sectarian quotas. In 2003, the political blocs agreed to a quota system, with each faction having appropriate representation, and have continued to use it to this day.

Moving away from sectarian quotas will be difficult. The negotiations on the government were obstructed when some political blocs, including the Sunni-dominated National Union of Forces, demanded an increase in their share of the ministries. In addition, movements and campaigns launched by youth and civic organizations do not seem to be having any significant effect on changing the process of forming governments.

According to Razak Mhaybes, a parliamentarian for the Shiite National Alliance and member of the Badr Organization's parliamentary bloc, “Moving the ministries away from sectarianism is impossible,” he said. “The political blocs refuse ministries being staffed without their members.”

Some intellectuals and civil activists argue that excluding the Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Higher Education and Ministry of Youth and Sports from the sectarian quotas, and appointing qualified people from outside the political blocs to run them, will contribute significantly in building future Iraqi generations. It would also give intellectuals a greater role in the political process.

The conference statement, which intellectuals deemed exceptional, called for “building the destroyed infrastructure affecting the culture of the country … and establishing cultural centers and headquarters of various literary and artistic unions in Baghdad and other provinces and cities of Iraq.” The statement, which Al-Monitor obtained a copy of, also called for the “construction of public libraries and research centers and the promotion of the role of cinema, theater and art exhibition halls, as well as scientific and applied research centers.”

Mhaybes has not hidden his position on the issue. “Political blocs [should] choose ministers outside quotas and appoint people with experience and competence,” he said. “These people must be outside the quotas given the importance and specialization of these ministries.” Mhaybes told Al-Monitor emphatically, “Quotas killed everything.”

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