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Iraqi parliament approves Abadi’s reform package

A member of the Iraqi security forces stands guard on the top of a building during a demonstration to show support for Iraqi Prime Minister al-Abadi at Tahrir Square in central Baghdad

Iraq’s parliament voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s reform package, Speaker Saleem al-Jabouri said during a session broadcast live on state television.

Abadi had proposed measures to reduce corruption and save money in the face of mounting unrest. They include eliminating a layer of senior government positions, ending sectarian and party quotas for state positions, reducing officials’ benefits and reopening corruption investigations.

Emboldened by widespread anti-government protests and a call by a leading Shi’ite Muslim cleric for tougher action, Abadi announced measures over the weekend aimed at reforming a system critics say hands high office to unqualified candidates and encourages corruption.

He proposed scrapping Iraq’s multiple vice president and deputy prime minister positions, currently shared out along sectarian lines.

Parliament also approved on Tuesday its own package of reforms to sack the ministers of finance and electricity, cut the number of ministries, reduce the size of officials’ security details and reform the judicial system.

Abadi, who has struggled to build broad support for reform, received a boost from Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in his sermon on Friday. The octogenarian Shi’ite cleric, whom few Iraqi politicians would openly challenge, urged Abadi to “strike with an iron fist” against corruption.

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