Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has insisted that the general elections will go ahead as planned, calling it a “constitutional commitment” that should be fulfilled.
Abadi, speaking on the upcoming parliamentary elections scheduled for May, “regardless of the results, our goal is to form a professional team” away from the quota system, which defines the ethnic representation in the Iraqi governance system.
In an exclusive interview with Al Arabiya’s General Manager Turki al-Dakhil, the prime minister said the political process should rely “on the basis of citizenship,” pointing to the ongoing political change happening in Iraq, and how its influencing Iraqis to reject the “sectarian logic”.
Abadi also spoke of his relationship with his predecessor, Nouri al-Maliki, and the impact it had on the Islamic Dawa party. He said during the interview that the recent differences between the Dawa Party was because of al-Maliki’s refusal of Abadi running for elections on the party’s list, resulting with the party being left of the list of those participating in the upcoming vote.
“The majority of the Dawa Party supported me, but Maliki wanted the party to be with him,” Abadi said.
ANALYSIS: What next for Iraq’s Abadi after his ‘victory’ alliance collapses?
On the topic of corruption, the Iraqi leader said that the biggest challenge in the coming period lies in tackling the “waste of resources, poor planning and seizing the state’s money”.
“Corruption is costing billions of dollars to Iraq,” Abadi said. “Corrupt individuals want the state to remain weak to ensure their survival.”
Speaking of the Kurdistan region, the prime minister explained that “the government is required to pay salaries to the Kurdistan region,” and that “the technical committees are working on it.”
But at the same time, he questioned where the oil revenues of the region are being allocated, saying: “We asked about the fate of the oil revenues in Kurdistan and couldn’t find an answer.”
On the war against ISIS, Abadi said that Iraq today is stronger after its recent victories against the extremist group, “which attempted to eliminate the minorities in Iraq and divide the people.”
“In order to prevail we must tolerate, and ensure the return of minorities and clans.”
On relations with its Arab neighbors, Abadi said, “we have embarked on a plan to open up to Arab countries after the elimination of terrorism.”
“Our cooperation with Saudi Arabia is not in one direction, and it is mutually beneficial to both sides,” he said, noting that “there are agreements to facilitate visas for Hajj and Umrah and Saudi businessmen.”
As for the border crossings between the two countries, Abadi said “they need to be restructured due to the damages caused by wars,” but at the same time, “we found encouragement... and trade has increased.”