x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Iraqi government announcement likely to be delayed

The Iraqi prime minister's long-awaited announcement of his new government, which had been expected today, will likely be delayed again over disputes between parties on how to distribute the posts.

BAGHDAD // The Iraqi prime minister's long-awaited announcement of his new government, which had been expected today, will likely be delayed again over disputes between parties on how to distribute the posts.

Politicians allied with Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki said he likely would submit to parliament the names of candidates for at least some of the estimated 40 ministries and other top government jobs by day's end. But parliament adjourned without receiving any list, meaning there is no chance for approval on Monday.

The developments pointed to more of the disarray and political infighting that has snarled formation of the new government for more than nine months since March elections that did not produce a clear winner.

After promising he would unveil his new Cabinet on Monday, Mr al Maliki frantically sought to save face by showing he is ready to move forward with at least some nominees. Mr al Maliki "will hand over the names so that it is officially registered that it happened today," said Abbas al-Bayati, an ally of the prime minister.

A second al-Maliki ally, politican Ali al-Adeeb, also said some of the names probably would be submitted.

"There are disputes within blocs themselves on who to nominate for posts that have caused some delay," Mr al Adeeb said.

It's not clear when parliament will vote on the Cabinet, as lawmakers may wait until all candidates are submitted before taking action.

Mr al Maliki has until Saturday to present his Cabinet under a 30-day deadline imposed by the constitution. If he does not, President Jalal Talabani will assign another member of parliament to try to form the government.

The constitution does not specify how Mr Talabani would select the next lawmaker to create the government. But it could mean that Mr al Maliki will lose his shot to remain prime minister after more than nine months of postelection haggling to build enough support from former opponents to remain in power.

Monday's holdup was caused by foot-dragging by the secular, Sunni-backed Iraqiya political alliance that opposed Mr al Maliki in the March 7 vote and narrowly won the most seats of any bloc.

Iraqiya lawmaker Jabar al-Jabari said the alliance has not yet submitted its candidates for cabinet posts because the group's members are still undecided who should get what.

"We have not yet handed al-Maliki the names because we are trying to come up with the best candidates for the job," he said.

Iraqiya only recently dropped its long-standing demand to that is leader, Ayad Allawi, should have the first shot at forming the government instead of Mr al Maliki.

Mr Allawi said his concession to Mr al Maliki came only after he was assured about a power-sharing agreement to fairly divide up the posts among Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds.