IraqMiddle East

Iraqi PM sacks electricity minister, 5 election officials

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has sacked his minister of electricity and five election officials following weeks of protests against corruption and chronic power outages.

Abadi sacked Qassem al-Fahdawi on Sunday “because of the deterioration in the electricity sector,” a statement from the prime minister’s office said.

The decision came a day after the premier fired five election officials at the suggestion of a committee set up to examine alleged voter irregularities in the May parliamentary elections.

He took the move following top cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani’s call on the government to tackle corruption and poor basic services.

A judiciary official said the election officials will be put on trial on charge of fraud, including vote buying.

The suspects were the heads of election offices in Salaheddin, Kirkuk and Anbar provinces as well as those who oversaw the voting in neighboring Jordan and Turkey.

Iraqi electoral commission employees manually count ballots and compare them with electronic counting machine print-outs in the central holy city of Najaf on May 13, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

All five have been sacked “and will appear before the courts” in connection with allegations of fraud, Judge Laith Hamza was quoted as saying.

The decision to put them on trial was made following recommendations by a ministerial committee, which issued a 28-page report after reviewing a series of complaints.

Hamza said the committee recommended that the five suspects be tried after coming across election “violations, fraud and corruption” in the districts which they headed.

Since June, Iraq has been manually recounting the ballots as ordered by the parliament.

Opposition politicians behind the fraud claims say that the electronic system used for the first time in the May 12 polls was susceptible to abuse.

Senior cleric Muqtada al-Sadr won a majority in the polls at the head of his political bloc. Iraqi politicians have been trying to form a cabinet since the elections.

On Friday, Ayatollah Sistani called for the new government to be sworn in faster as he urged government action to fight corruption.

“The current government must work hard urgently to implement citizens’ demands and reduce their suffering and misery,” the top cleric’s representative said in the holy city of Karbala.

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