Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Iraq: New government is business as usual

On 5 April the Kurdish parliament finally approved new Prime Minister Nejervan Barzani's government. It has been a long wait, especially given that it was always clear right from the start that Nejervan, who is Kurdish President Masoud Barzani's nephew, would be the man to take the job.

Much of the delay was related to Nejervan's desire to bring some of the opposition into the government. However, despite his best efforts, he was ultimately unable to convince the big players in the opposition to join him. The main opposition parties, including Goran, the Islamic Union of Kurdistan and the Jama'a Al-Islamiya, which together hold 35 of the 111 seats in the legislative body, all boycotted the parliamentary session to endorse the new government.

Predictably enough, the 19-member government that was sworn in represented the usual combination of the two main parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), along with a smattering of smaller groupings including the Kurdistan Communist Party and the Kurdistan Islamic Movement, as well as representatives from the Assyrian and Turkomen minorities. There were a number of new faces in the cabinet, mostly from the KDP, which retained only two of its ministers from the last government. These were Ali Sindi, who stayed on as planning minister, and Ashti Hourami who held on to natural resources. Hourami's retention was hardly a surprise. He is known to be extremely close to Massoud Barzani and, by extension, to Nejervan. Indeed, the KDP forced former prime minister Barham Saleh to retain Hourami against his wishes when he formed his government in 2009.

Hourami is generally deemed to be doing a good job, a view consolidated by his ability to attract ExxonMobil to the region, as well as by reports that French company Total is also interested in investing in the KRG. Given his hawkish attitude towards the development of an independent Kurdish energy sector, Hourami's retention is also a clear indication that Erbil has no intention of bowing to Baghdad's demands in this sphere.

The other ministries in the KDP's hands include education (Asmat Mohamed Khalid), agriculture and water resources (Serwan Baban), justice (Sherwan Haidary), interior (Abdul Karim Sultan Sinjari) and municipalities and tourism (Dilshad Shahab) – a total of six plus the premiership. The PUK took seven ministries, including the post of deputy prime minister, which it gets automatically, given that the prime minister is from the KDP.

For more news and expert analysis about Iraq, please see Iraq Focus.

© 2012 Menas Associates

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