Implementing reforms to curb graft and streamline the government “will not be easy,” and corrupt people will fight to hold back change, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Wednesday.
This was Abadi’s first effort to manage expectations for the reform programme he rolled out Sunday in response to widespread public anger over corruption and poor services.
“The process will not be easy; it will be painful. The corrupt will not sit by without lifting a finger,” Abadi said in televised remarks a day after parliament signed off on his proposed measures.
Those who have “interests and privileges will defend their privileges and interests, and some of them will even fight for them,” he said.
“They will try to sabotage each step we take”.
The premier also said that, while some want him to make “unrealistic demands,” he “will not demand anything that cannot be implemented.”
The anti-corruption drive will be carried out without favour, including within his party, Abadi said.
“If there is a corrupt person in my party, I am against them, and if there is a good person in the party of my enemy, I am with him,” he said.
Amid a major heatwave that has seen temperatures top 50 degrees Celsius (120 degrees Fahrenheit), protesters have railed against the poor quality of services, especially power outages that leave just a few hours of government-supplied electricity per day.
Thousands of people have turned out in Baghdad and cities in the Shiite south to vent their anger, pressure the authorities to make changes.
Their demands were given a boost on Friday when top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who is revered by millions, called for Abadi to take “drastic measures” against corruption, saying the “minor steps” he had announced were not enough.
Various parties and politicians have sought to align themselves with the protesters in order to benefit from the movement and mitigate the risk to themselves.
Even with popular support for change, the entrenched nature of corruption and the fact that parties across the political spectrum benefit from it will make any efforts extremely difficult.