BAGHDAD (AFP) – Iraq’s Cabinet held a live televised meeting on Tuesday to discuss progress made over a 100-day timeframe set by Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, who pulled back from a threat of ministerial firings.
Analysts have warned that while short-term progress has been made, little in the way of landmark legislation has been passed, key issues remain unresolved and protests have already been called for Friday.
The televised Cabinet meeting, which Maliki said would set out ministers’ accomplishments and future plans, had an early focus on energy and electricity, issues which loom large in a country which relies on oil exports for 90 per cent of government income but suffers a massive power shortfall.
“Today, we will show to the people the explanations of the ministers about what we have accomplished, what we want to do, and the obstacles,” Maliki said, before Hussein Al Shahristani, deputy premier with responsibility for energy issues, took over.
Maliki had set the timetable on February 27, noting that reviews would be carried out based on ministerial performance over the ensuing 100 days and warning that “changes will be made” based on those assessments.
But on Monday, the day before the deadline was set to expire, he signalled that no top politicians would be dismissed for poor performance, insisting that his remarks had been misunderstood.
“There are those who want to confuse the concept of this initiative,” Maliki said in comments broadcast on Iraqiya state television.
“We think that they want to push people to force ministers to be accountable for a few things that naturally should take more time.”
Newspapers have insisted, however, that the government must show concrete progress, with the independent Al Alam daily noting in an editorial: “The government of Mr Al Maliki obliged itself to these 100 days.”
“Therefore, after the end of the 100 days, it must provide real and tangible achievements for the public, and not only give slogans and speeches, and must stop talk of fake achievements, or even to ask for a new 100 days.”
Maliki issued the 100-day warning amid widespread protests across Iraq over poor basic services, high unemployment and rampant corruption, in some of the biggest rallies since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.