Iraq Lawmakers Stop Bid to Oust Speaker

BAGHDAD (AP) -- Iraqi lawmakers on Saturday postponed a vote to oust speaker Selim al-Jabouri after failing to reach a quorum in their second failed attempt this week, part of a stalled effort to remove top officials who the parliamentarians accuse of failing to combat corruption and mismanagement.

An official session planned for Saturday had earlier been postponed for "security reasons," according to parliamentary spokesman Imad al-Khafaji. The protesting lawmakers gathered at parliament anyway, but later dispersed when it became clear they did not have the numbers to topple the speaker.

The protesting lawmakers vowed to hold the vote next week. An earlier attempt on Thursday had failed for lack of a quorum.

The lawmakers are demanding Iraq's top political leadership, including Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, step down — accusing them of failing to reform a political system steeped in patronage. Earlier this week, the parliamentarians held a multi-day sit-in at the assembly.

However, many Iraqis blame the lawmakers themselves for squandering billions in oil money, leaving the country with crumbling infrastructure and abysmal services more than 10 years after the U.S.-led invasion and the lifting of international sanctions.

Hundreds of people gathered in Baghdad on Saturday to protest the slow pace of reforms first promised by al-Abadi in August 2014. The proposed reforms consisted of austerity measures that he claimed would also help combat corruption.

The Iraqi leader's move followed weeks of protests demanding better government services across Baghdad and the country's mostly Shiite south, which mobilized millions of demonstrators.

The United Nations on Friday called on Iraqi leaders to resolve the political crisis, warning that instability could jeopardize the fight against the Islamic State group, which still controls much of northern and western Iraq.

"The only party that benefits from the political divisions and chaos .... is Daesh," said the UN's acting head of mission to Iraq, Gyorgy Busztin, using the Arabic acronym for IS.

The costs of the war against IS, along with the plunge in the price of oil — which accounts for 95 percent ofIraq's revenues — has caused an economic crisis, adding fresh urgency to calls for reform.