Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel-Mahdi addresses parliament in Baghdad in October. Photo: AFP
Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel-Mahdi addresses parliament in Baghdad in October. Photo: AFP

The Iraqi parliament approved three new ministers on Tuesday but adjourned before voting on the five remaining posts, leaving the deadlock over several key ministries unresolved.

This brings the number of filled posts in Prime Minister Adel Abdel-Mahdi’s 22-ministry cabinet to 17. The other 14 were approved in late October.

New Higher Education Minister Qusay al-Suheil, 53, is a member of former prime minister Nuri al-Maliki’s State of Law bloc.

Planning Minister Nuri al-Dulaimi, 51, is an Iraqi Islamic Party member while Minister of Culture Abdulamir al-Hamdani, a 51-year-old archeologist, is backed by pro-Iran force Asaib Ahl al-Haq.

After the speedy vote, lawmakers adjourned their session to Thursday afternoon.

The five empty posts include the powerful ministers of defense and interior, seen as the primary stumbling blocks to establishing a full cabinet.

Abdel-Mahdi has proposed Faysal al-Jarba and Falih Alfayyadh as ministers of defense and interior respectively. Both are backed by parties close to Iran, but rival Sunni political parties are deeply divided over Jarba.

Saeroon, the coalition headed by populist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and the largest bloc in parliament, is fiercely opposed to Alfayyadh’s nomination.

Last week, Abdel-Mahdi told reporters that the ongoing dispute over the unfilled ministries was “not his decision.”

He said, “We were free to choose eight or nine ministers, and the rest are the results of political agreements.

“When it comes to the interior and defense, these were the choices of the political blocs, not of the premier.”

As the formation of the government drags on, observers wonder whether Abdel-Mahdi could step down, further destabilizing a country struggling to rebuild after three years of fighting against ISIS.

– with reporting by Agence France-Presse