BAGHDAD (AP) — Drain the swamp: it’s a promise leaders around the world are making in this era of voter cynicism and political upheaval.
But Iraq’s Prime Minister-designate Adel Abdul-Mahdi may be taking it further than anyone else.
To form his government, he opened an online portal for anyone to apply to run Iraq’s 22 ministries, posts that have come to be associated with patronage and graft.
Within days, his office received more than 15,000 applications, according to local media, and offered interviews to 601 candidates.
Still, many are sceptical that Abdul-Mahdi can change how business is done.
Many political parties have their own militias and threaten to disrupt Iraq’s fragile stability if they do not get the ministries they desire.
Others are asking whether it is wise to appoint political neophytes to the highest positions of government.
“I’m fifty-fifty,” said Hisham al-Dahabi, a social worker and philanthropist, who said he applied reluctantly to be the minister of labour and social affairs, a position that oversees services and pensions for veterans, their widows and children.
“The parties will never waive their shares in the new government,” said al-Dahabi.
On a recent day at the orphanage he runs in the heart of Baghdad, al-Dahabi juggled his responsibilities as manager and social worker while giving media interviews and showing around an admiring delegation from a European embassy.
Since returning from exile in 2003, Abdul-Mahdi, an economist, has served as oil minister, finance minister and vice president, developing a reputation as a political independent.
He is Iraq’s first prime minister in 12 years who is not from the Dawa party, blamed by many for presiding over the deterioration of the country’s civil service and unchecked militia growth.