Amid widespread protests over a power crisis, Iraq’s prime minister has ordered the suspension of the country’s electricity minister.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi made the announcement on his Twitter account on Sunday. He said the suspension of the minister, Qassim al-Fahdawi, would last until an investigation into poor service is concluded.
Despite billions of dollars spent since the 2003 United States-led invasion toppled the dictator Saddam Hussein, many Iraqi cities and towns still experience severe power cuts and rolling blackouts.
The issue has also partly fueled this month’s protests in Iraq’s southern Shiite heartland, mainly in the energy-rich province of Basra.
The protests turned violent when security forces opened fire on the angry mobs attacking and burning government offices and those of political parties. Several protesters were killed and wounded, while others were arrested.
The move came after Mr. Abadi sacked five local election officials on Saturday on charges of corruption during the May 12 parliamentary election, a spokesman for the Independent High Elections Commission said, according to Reuters.
Iraq is conducting a manual recount of the ballots, which is likely to speed up the ratification of the final result and the formation of a new government.
Mr. Abadi had appointed a special committee to investigate claims of vote-rigging in several regions, and on Saturday he approved its recommendation to dismiss local election chiefs in Kirkuk, Anbar and Salahuddin, Judge Laith Jabr Hamza said in a statement.
Those in charge of overseas election offices in Turkey and Jordan were also dismissed.
“The decision to sack the officials was approved by the prime minister after they committed violations, manipulation and financial corruption,” said Judge Laith Jabr.
The announcement came the day after Iraq’s top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, urged government action to fight corruption amid further protests sweeping the southern province, Iraq’s Shiite heartland, over the lack of proper government services and jobs.
Allegations of vote rigging centered on the city of Kirkuk, although there have been reports of irregularities in multiple provinces.
Opposition politicians have claimed that the tabulation system in electronic voting machines that were used for the first time during the election were not secure enough from tampering.
In response to the claims, the departing Parliament in June ordered a nationwide manual recount of the votes.
The law also called for the elections commission’s leadership to be replaced by a panel of judges.
Orignially published in NYT.