Iraq’s Parliament unanimously approved measures on Aug. 11 to overhaul the country’s political system, the most radical changes to the nation’s governance since the U.S.-led invasion of 2003. The reforms proposed by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi came after a summer of antigovernment protests as Iraqis endured a heat wave and frequent power cuts. The country’s top Shi’ite cleric, Grand Ayatullah Ali Husaini Sistani, has endorsed the move, but critics say it will simply benefit al-Abadi while deepening sectarian rifts.
Plans to review all corruption cases and reopen cases for officials suspected of misconduct are intended to win over the 47% of Iraqis who feel that political parties are corrupt. Cutting costly perks like personal bodyguards for officials may ease antipathy toward the political classes.
Three largely ceremonial vice-presidency posts will be abolished, as will three Deputy Prime Minister positions. All these posts are currently held by powerful players, including al-Abadi’s chief rival, former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Some lawmakers fear unrest could follow. “We are expecting there to be assassination attempts, attempted coups,” said Kurdish legislator Serwan Sereni.
Al-Abadi will scrap sectarian quotas in political appointments, a hallmark of the U.S.-imposed system that critics say promotes unqualified candidates. But the move risks allowing Shi’ite politicians to dominate high-level posts, alienating the country’s Sunni minority at a time when ISIS extremists are battling Shi’ite-led forces in northern and western Iraq.
This appears in the August 24, 2015 issue of TIME.