The main Shiite bloc in the Iraqi parliament chose incumbent Nuri al-Maliki to be its candidate for premier on Friday, renewing hopes that the country's months-long political deadlock following March 7 elections may soon be brought to an end.
AFP - Iraq's main Shiite parliamentary bloc chose incumbent Nuri al-Maliki as its candidate for premier Friday, clearing the way for an end to the country's nearly seven-month political deadlock.
The announcement by the National Alliance (NA), which remains short of an absolute majority in the 325-member Council of Representatives, is the first sign of hope in months of a government forming after March 7 elections.
"The National Alliance has chosen Maliki as its candidate for the premiership," coalition member Falah Fayadh said at a news conference. He said that the coalition's members voted "by consensus," but did not elaborate.
Maliki's State of Law Alliance had finished second in the polls, two seats behind the Iraqiya bloc of ex-premier Iyad Allawi. But Maliki joined forces with the Iraqi National Alliance (INA) in early May.
The newly-formed NA held on-off negotiations for several months as members quarrelled over the selection of a candidate for premier. The INA had named Vice-President Adel Abdel Mahdi as its choice, but Maliki eventually won out.
State of Law and INA hold 159 seats between them, just four short of a majority. But two other parties, the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC) and Fadhila stayed away from the talks, shaving 27 seats from the National Alliance's total.
Iraq on Friday tied the world record for the longest period without a government after elections, with its 208-day impasse matching the time it took for the Netherlands to name a prime minister in 1977.
Maliki originally took the reins of Iraq's first permanent government after the 2003 ouster of dictator Saddam Hussein, and in 2006 won plaudits for his willingness to face down a Shiite militia and set aside communal interests for a nationalist agenda.
But while violence has dropped dramatically since its peak in 2006 and 2007 -- something Maliki has been quick to take credit for -- analysts note that much of the decline had to do with a strengthened US troop presence and the co-opting of Sunni tribal groups to fight Al-Qaeda.
The NA's announcement on Friday came hours after officials said that 273 Iraqis died of violence in September, fewer than any month since January, when 196 were killed.
The sharp decline in attacks comes after July and August recorded two of the highest monthly tolls since 2008, shortly after a brutal sectarian war across the country left tens of thousands dead.
September marked the first month since the United States declared an official end to combat operations in Iraq, seven and a half months after it invaded the country to oust Saddam.
Meanwhile, violence in Baghdad and the restive northern city of Mosul on Friday killed five people, including a policeman and a soldier.
Friday's deadliest attack saw three people killed, including two anti-Qaeda fighters, when a roadside bomb went off at a checkpoint manned by militiamen in the south Baghdad district of Dora, an interior ministry official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
In Mosul, one policeman and a soldier were killed in separate incidents in the northern city, which remains one of Iraq's least stable, Lieutenant Colonel Mohammed al-Juburi said.
Date created : 2010-10-01