Iraq president refuses to name nominee rejected by protesters as PM
Barham Saleh said he would not name Asaad al-Eidani as the country’s next prime minister ‘to avoid more bloodshed’.
Iraq’s president has refused to designate the Iran-backed parliamentary bloc’s nominee for prime minister after he was rejected by anti-government protesters.
Barham Saleh said in a statement issued by his office that he would not name the governor of the southern Basra province, Asaad al-Eidani, as the country’s next prime minister “to avoid more bloodshed and in order to safeguard civil peace”.
Mr al-Eidani’s name was proposed on Wednesday by the Fatah bloc, which includes leaders associated with the Iran-supported paramilitary Popular Mobilisation Forces.
He was promptly rejected by Iraqi protesters, who poured onto the streets to denounce his nomination over megaphones and to call for an independent candidate.
In his statement, Mr Saleh said his refusal to designate Mr al-Eidani could be construed as a violation of the constitution and that he was putting his resignation at the disposal of parliament.
He stopped short of actually submitting his resignation.
The move is likely to further deepen a political crisis in the country, which has been gripped by mass protests since October 1.
The leaderless protesters are calling for the overthrow of Iraq’s entire political class over corruption and mismanagement.
The protests, concentrated in Baghdad and the mostly Shiite-inhabited south, have also turned into an uprising against Iran’s political and military influence in the country.
Prime minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi submitted his resignation late last month under mounting pressure from the protesters calling for him to go.
More than 450 people have been killed since October, the vast majority of them protesters caught by security forces firing tear gas and live ammunition.
According to Iraq’s constitution, the largest bloc in parliament is required to nominate the new prime minister, who then has to be designated by the president.
A deadline to name a new prime minister has been missed twice over disagreements about which is the largest bloc in the parliament following last year’s elections.
There are two main blocs in the Iraqi Parliament — Sairoon, led by populist Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, and Fatah, headed by Hadi al-Amiri.
But the numbers in the blocs have continued to change since last year’s elections, with an unknown number of lawmakers leaving some blocs and joining others.
Last Saturday, Iraq’s Federal Supreme Court provided guidance in a statement, but stopped short of naming the largest bloc.
It said the decision should be based on parliament’s first session after taking office last year. But the court also said it would accept if two or more lists had merged to become the largest bloc.
The same day, Mr Saleh sent the court’s response to parliament, asking the legislature to say which was the largest bloc.
Shortly after he issued his statement on Thursday, Mr Saleh left Baghdad and headed to his hometown in the northern city of Sulaimaniyah.
A Facebook page linked to Mr al-Sadr commented on the president’s position saying: “Thank you, Mr President, for rejecting the candidates that the people reject, a position that history, and the (Iraqi) people and the (Shiite religious) authority will record.”