BAGHDAD: Forming a government in Iraq is never easy. There are endless negotiations, hand-written letters are passed between partners and rivals, while aides shuffle between Baghdad’s party headquarters.
But the prime minister designate’s attempt to drag the process into the digital era by requesting ministerial candidates submit their applications and CVs online has been met with anger and ridicule.
Adel Abdul Mahdi faces a stiff challenge to form a government within 30 days from a complex array of factions and rivals in Iraq’s parliament.
But his “unacceptable” use of modern HR methods broke with political convention, angering his partners, Shiite leaders told Arab News on Tuesday.
It also left him flooded with applications from jobless Iraqis and made Abdul Mahdi the butt of social media jokes criticism from the government’s opponents.
On Monday, Abdul Mahdi’s office issued a statement saying: “Whoever has the experience and believes that she/he is eligible to run for a ministerial post and wants to nominate themselves, has to send their CV through the website https://iraqcabinet2018.com.
Potential candidates were told they had between 8am on Tuesday and 4pm on Thursday to throw their hats into the ring.
“This is a mockery of the position of minister. There is no government in the world that respects itself and is formed in this way,” a prominent Shiite leader who served as a minister told Arab News.
“The population of Iraq is 37 million people, 35 million of them will apply for the posts. Does Abdul Mahdi have the required staff to check all these CVs in just 20 days, check their criminal records, political affiliations and their previous relation with the banned-Baath Party?
“This is just a silly trick or a joke. Instead of wasting his time in these games, he has to invest every minute of the remaining 20 days to choose his ministers.”
Politicians close to Abdul Mahdi said the move may have been to send a message to the various political, religious and tribal leaders who have been pressuring him to choose their candidates.
“We do not know the idiot who suggested this, but it is certain that Abdul Mahdi knows for sure that the nominations for the ministry are not done in this way,” a Shiite negotiator told Arab News.
“We know and understand the great pressures on him, but this step has sent a wrong message to all and reflected his weakness. How will he deal with the political forces that already have a share in his cabinet?”
Abdel Mahdi was assigned last week by the new President Barham Salih to form a government after he was nominated by the two biggest parliamentary Shiite-led coalitions Reform and Al-Binna’a.
Reform is led by the influential Shiite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr, while A-Binna’a is supported by Iran and led by Hadi Al-Amiri, the commander of the powerful armed Badr Organization.
Constitutionally, he has just a month from the date of his assignment to present his cabinet list for a vote in parliament.
The selection of ministers is usually done in accordance with the consensus of the various political forces, according to an informal agreement adopted in 2005.
Each parliamentary bloc should get a share of the ministries equal to the number of its seats in the parliament.
But Abdel Mahdi’s automated system for applications threw the doors open to the general public to apply for the posts.
The prime minister designate has held dozens of meetings with political leaders and diplomats since he was assigned.
Both Reform and Al-Binna’a approved his government program on Sunday and have agreed on the initial distribution of ministries among Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds according to the number of their seats in the parliament.
A member of Abdul Mahdi’s team told Arab News that they have received hundreds of applications in the early hours after the site was opened.
Iraqis frustrated by a lack of security, electricity, drinking water, unemployment and corruption, found in Abdul Mahdi’s invitation a great opportunity to ridicule the current political process.
“I am going to nominate myself to be the minister of education. Please vote for me and I will hire you all,” Dhuha Abdulkareem, a university graduate, who has been looking for a job for five years, wrote on her Facebook page.
“I was looking to get just a simple job as a teacher, now I will be a minister.
“Why do they insist on dealing with us as donkeys who do not understand what’s going on?”
Muntadhar Zayer, another young unemployed Iraqi, wrote: “I do not want anything from you Mr. Prime Minister, just give me the Ministry of Housing for a year so I can build my house and get enough money to secure my future and the future of my family and then I will leave it to you and your people.”
“Do not be afraid, I will share with you all the commissions that I will get.”
For many Iraqis the move was a chance to mock the country’s leadership.
One cartoon showed a young woman talking to her fiancé saying: “How can we get married while you’re jobless?”
He replied: “Do not worry, I have applied for the post of minister.”