Newly elected Iraqi President Barham Salih appointed on Tuesday Adel Abdul Mahdi prime minister-designate. His election and Abdul Mahdi’s appointment ended months of deadlock after inconclusive parliamentary elections in May.
The vote for Salih was a key step toward forming a new government, which politicians have failed to do since the elections.
Under Iraq’s constitution, Salih - a 58-year-old, British - educated engineer who has held office in both the Iraqi federal and Kurdish regional governments - had 15 days to invite the nominee of the largest parliamentary bloc to form a government. He chose to do so less than two hours after his election.
Since Saddam Hussein was toppled in a 2003 U.S.-led invasion, power has been shared among Iraq’s three largest ethnic-sectarian components.
The most powerful post, that of prime minister, has traditionally been held by a Shiite Arab, the speaker of parliament by a Sunni Arab and the presidency by a Kurd.
A former vice president, oil minister and finance minister, Abdul Mahdi now has 30 days to form a cabinet and present it to parliament for approval.
He faces the daunting tasks of rebuilding much of the country after four years of war with ISIS terrorists, healing its ethnic and sectarian tensions, and balancing foreign relations with Iraq’s two major allies - Iran and the United States.
Abdul Mahdi, 76, is a trained economist who left Iraq in 1969 for exile in France, where he worked for think-tanks and edited magazines in French and Arabic. He is the son of a respected Shiite cleric who was a minister in the era of Iraq’s monarchy, overthrown in 1958.
He will become the first elected prime minister in post-Saddam Iraq not to hail from the Dawa party.
Abdul Mahdi was nominated by two rival blocs, one led by cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and outgoing Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, and the other by Iran-backed Hadi al-Ameri and former premier Nouri al-Maliki.
Both blocs claim to hold a parliamentary majority but the dispute has been rendered irrelevant by their choice of the same man to be premier.
Abdul Mahdi is not allied with either of the two blocs. He was previously a member of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, a large Shiite party with close ties to Iran.
Seen as an independent by Iraqis, he is credited with having good relations with a number of Kurdish leaders. This could be crucial, coming a year after a disastrous referendum in which Iraqi Kurdistan voted overwhelmingly for independence.
“The nomination of Mr. Adel Abdul Mahdi came after an agreement between the Binaa bloc and the Islah bloc to nominate him via consensus and not a majority bloc in order to get past the issue of which is the majority bloc,” said Ahmed al-Asadi, a spokesman for the Binaa bloc led by Ameri and Maliki.
Ameri and Maliki are Iran’s two most prominent allies in Iraq. Abadi was seen as the preferred candidate of the United States, while Sadr portrays himself as a nationalist who rejects both American and Iranian influence.
Sadr’s bloc welcomed Abdul Mahdi’s nomination. The cleric earlier on Tuesday tweeted that “Iraq is bigger than the biggest bloc,” a likely reference to the compromise.
Abadi issued a statement congratulating Abdul Mahdi and wishing him success.
“Abdul Mahdi’s nomination represents the best choice to pleasing all the Shiite players who were about to reach a point of conflict and no return,” said Baghdad-based political analyst Ahmed Younis.
“Now with Abdul Mahdi there are no winners and losers, everyone is happy.”
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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