July 29, 2018 / 8:56 AM / 22 days ago

Iraqi PM suspends electricity minister amid unrest over poor services

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi suspended his electricity minister on Sunday amid continuing protests over poor public services especially power cuts and rampant corruption, the premier’s office said.

FILE PHOTO: People protest over poor public services in the city of Najaf, Iraq, July 27, 2018. REUTERS/Alaa al-Marjani/File Photo

It said in a statement that Abadi had also ordered an internal government investigation into Electricity Minister Qassim al-Fahdawi’s role in the deterioration of utility services. There was no immediate comment from Fahdawi.

Protests have swept cities in the long neglected south, Iraq’s Shi’ite Muslim heartland, over widespread electricity outages during the blistering hot Iraqi summer, a lack of jobs and proper government services, and pervasive graft.

On Saturday, Abadi sacked five local election officials after they were charged with acts of corruption during the May 12 parliamentary election.

Abadi’s moves come after Iraq’s top Shi’ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, urged government action to fight corruption to defuse unrest.

Public anger is mounting at a time when politicians are struggling to form a new government after a May 12 election that was marred by allegations of fraud, prompting a recount.

Abadi, who is seeking a second term in office, is heading a fragile caretaker government for the time being.

Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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