Iraq president says parliament has three days to come up with new PM

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Iraq’s president on Wednesday threatened to unilaterally name a successor to the country’s premier, who resigned in December, if parliament did not nominate a candidate within three days.

“If the concerned blocs are unable to resolve the nomination issue by no later than Saturday, February 1... I see an obligation to exercise my constitutional powers by tasking whomever I find most acceptable to parliament and the people,” Barham Saleh wrote in a letter seen by AFP.

Prime Minister Adil Abdel Mahdi resigned in December after two months of deadly protests against his government, but he has stayed on in a caretaker role, as deeply divided political parties have failed to agree on a replacement.

According to Iraq’s constitution, parliament’s largest bloc must nominate a prime minister within 15 days of legislative elections.

The candidate is then appointed by the president and tasked with forming a government within one month.

But Iraq is in uncharted waters, as the constitution makes no provisions for the prime minister’s resignation and the 15-day period since Abdel Mahdi stepped down has long expired.

Any candidate would need stamps of approval from not only the fractured political class but also the Shia religious authority, neighboring Iran, its rival the US and the anti-government civil campaign that has gripped Iraq since October.

In late December, Saleh formally declined to nominate the governor of the oil-rich province of Basra, Assaad al-Aidani, saying he would be too “controversial.”