Iraqis are desperate to reboot their creaking democracy. Nearly every government since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 has proven corrupt, incompetent or dysfunctional. Their new prime minister, Adel Abdul-Mahdi, hardly seems like a change. The 76-year-old former finance and oil minister belongs to the old elite, whose fathers were ministers when Iraq was a pro-British monarchy, and who owe their restoration to America.
Mr Abdul-Mahdi’s confirmation, five months after a marred election in May, was inauspicious. Parliament’s speaker cut off his reading of the government’s 122-page programme after 45 minutes. MPs rejected eight of his 22 cabinet nominees. The two largest Shia parties are quarrelling over posts. One of the few things Iraq’s politicians agree on is that plum jobs should continue to be handed out by sect.
But Mr Abdul-Mahdi has advantages that other prime ministers did not. Despite the kerfuffle over his cabinet, he has the backing of all the big parties. He also enjoys support from Shia clerics and, remarkably, both America and Iran. He wants to use their backing to end corruption, repair Iraq's electricity and water grids, and get militias out of the cities.