Iraqi anger at lawmakers' 'lavish' salaries

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Iraqi lawmakers have collected their £56,000 stipend, they're raking in £14,000 a month in salaries and allowances, and they're spending free nights in Baghdad's finest hotel – and they've only worked about 20 minutes this year, without passing a single law.

As the parliament prepares to hold what will be only its second session since the inconclusive election in March, lawmakers' lavish salaries and privileges are deepening resentment among Iraqis struggling to make ends meet.

The Shia Muslim religious leadership – always tuned into sentiment among the Iraqi religious majority – has warned politicians against living the high life while ordinary people lack basic services, such as electricity and water. In contrast, a mid-level government employee makes around £375 a month.

In a mosque sermon, an aide to Iraq's top Shia cleric urged parliament to lower their salaries when they next meet. "It's reasonable to request the lawmakers' salaries do not reach a lavish level," Ahmed al-Safi said. "This is a very important issue ... I do not know why they keep turning a blind eye to it."

Since June, when the lawmakers first met for 20 minutes, Iraq's second elected parliament since the 2003 overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime has failed to convene. Sharp divisions among political blocs have prevented the formation of a new government, and not a single law has been debated, much less passed.