Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 February 2020

Iraqi president gives political parties three-day deadline to choose PM

Barham Salih said he will assign a candidate himself if parties fail to agree on a name

Iraq's President Barham Salih, President speaks during a plenary session during the 50th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, WEF, in Davos, Switzerland, Wednesday, January 22, 2020. AP
Iraq's President Barham Salih, President speaks during a plenary session during the 50th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, WEF, in Davos, Switzerland, Wednesday, January 22, 2020. AP

Iraqi President Barham Salih on Wednesday said that political parties have until Saturday to nominate a candidate for the position of prime minister.

Mr Salih has the task of nominating a new premier after Adel Abdul Mahdi resigned in November under pressure from anti-government protests.

The president is expected to sign off on a candidate submitted by parliament. However, the process of nominating a new prime minister has stirred much controversy during the last few months.

The Iraqi constitution gives the biggest parliamentary bloc the right to name a prime minister, but the legislature is divided over whether the “biggest bloc” refers to the largest coalition or the winning list in 2018 elections.

“I call on you, as parliamentary blocs, to resume constructive and serious political dialogue in order to agree on a new candidate,” Mr Salih said in a statement.

"We believe that the biggest obstacle lies in reaching reasonable parameters to agree on a new candidate for prime minister. Continuing in this current situation is certainly impossible and risks making things more dangerous and complex."

The president stressed that he will present a candidate of his own that “is most acceptable to the parliament and people" if no name is submitted by the parties.

“The president of the republic has a national and constitutional duty to push towards resolving this crisis,” he said.

In December, Mr Salih rejected the nomination of Basra governor Assad Al Aidani, a candidate of a pro-Iranian coalition, and said he was “ready to resign”.

“With all my respect to Mr Assad Al Aidani, I decline to put him forward” for the post, Mr Salih previously said.

As that could be seen as violating the constitution, “I place before members of parliament my readiness to resign from the position of president”, Mr Salih added.

Mr Al Aidani is considered as the candidate of Iran, which protesters accuse of meddling in Iraqi affairs.

Iraq has been rocked by anti-government protests since October, with thousands calling for a complete overhaul of the system.

Protesters are taking to the streets their anger against leaders who are negotiating to nominate an establishment insider as the next prime minister.

Updated: January 29, 2020 06:15 PM

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