Iraqi lawmakers said on Thursday that deadlock in parliament was holding up the selection of an interim prime minister, meaning leaders would miss a deadline to name a replacement for Adel Abdul Mahdi and prolong nationwide unrest.
More than 450 people, mostly unarmed demonstrators but also some members of the security forces, have been killed since a wave of popular unrest began on Oct. 1. Protesters, most of them young, are demanding an overhaul of a political system they see as profoundly corrupt and keeping most Iraqis in poverty.
The protests have shaken the country out of two years of relative calm following the defeat of ISIS insurgents.
Infighting between political parties who are clinging onto power has fueled the crisis and threatens to cause more unrest as protesters lose patience.
Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi resigned last month under pressure from the streets but has remained in office in a caretaker capacity. The constitutional deadline to name a replacement expires on Thursday.
President Barham Salih this week asked the largest bloc in parliament to nominate a new premier to form a government.
Lawmakers and politicians said Salih could now delay the nomination to Dec. 22, based on a federal court ruling allowing national holidays to be excluded from the run-up to the constitutional deadline.
The house failed on Wednesday to pass a new electoral law, a key demand of protesters, which would make elections fairer after each round in recent years has been marred by allegations of fraud.
Protesters demand a new electoral law and committee, but also the removal of the entire political class, and a prime minister with no party affiliation.