Iraqi lawmakers who met this week for the first time since a May election and are still struggling to form a new government, decided on Tuesday to put off their next meeting until Sept. 15, having failed to elect a parliament speaker.
Naming a speaker and two deputies is the first major step towards establishing a new government, with lawmakers still trying to determine which of competing blocs had the most seats.
An alliance backing Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and a populist Shiite cleric has been competing with a rival bloc backed by Abadi’s predecessor Nuri al-Maliki and an Iran-backed Shiite armed group.
After parliament met on Monday for the first time since the election, its temporary leader said it would remain in session until Tuesday. But lawmakers failed to reach a quorum on Tuesday and agreed to return in 11 days.
On Sunday, lawmakers backing Abadi and cleric Moqtada al-Sadr announced they had managed to form an alliance that would give them a majority bloc in parliament.
Hours later, however, a group led by Maliki and militia commander Hadi al-Amiri responded by saying it had formed its own alliance that would be the largest bloc. It said it had persuaded some lawmakers to defect from the rival bloc.
The power struggle reflects division within Iraq’s Shiite majority and the competing influence of Iraq’s two main allies, the United States and Iran, which despite being enemies on the wider regional stage both backed the Baghdad government in a 2014-2017 war against ISIS.