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Iraqi PM Maliki facing rival Shi'ite bids for premiership - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki gives a joint press conference with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon (unseen) in Baghdad about the situation in Iraq and Syrian on January 13, 2014 during the latter's two day visit to Iraq. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for Iraqi leaders to address the "root causes" of a surge in bloodshed as security forces clashed with gunmen in violence-wracked Anbar province. AFP PHOTO / Ahmed Saad / POOL

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki gives a joint press conference with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon (unseen) in Baghdad about the situation in Iraq and Syria on January 13, 2014. (AFP/Ahmed Saad)

Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Shi’ite-led Iraqi National Alliance has put forward two alternative candidates to embattled Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki, who is seeking to secure a controversial third term in office.

Maliki’s State of Law coalition, which won the greatest number of seats in April’s elections, is a prominent member of the Shi’ite electoral coalition, but the Sadrist Movement and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) are refusing to back Maliki as the National Alliance’s candidate.

“The National Alliance has put forward Adel Abdul Mahdi and Ahmed Chalabi as candidates for the post [of prime minister],” Sadrist Al-Ahrar bloc spokesman Jawad Al-Jubouri told Asharq Al-Awsat.

The ruling State of Law Coalition had exceeded the Thursday deadline set by the Sadrist Movement and the ISCI calling on Maliki to withdraw or face rival bids from within the Shi’ite bloc. Maliki would be unable to secure a third term in office without the backing of the country’s Shi’ites, who are increasingly concerned about the advance of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters in northern and central areas of Iraq.

“We feel that both [Chalabi and Abdul Mahdi] are accepted by the National Alliance and other political blocs,” Jubouri told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Adel Abdul Mahdi served as Iraqi Vice President between 2005–2011 and is a member of ISCI, led by Ammar Al-Hakim. While Ahmed Chalabi is a controversial figure within Iraqi politics, particularly over his role in the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. He served as interim Oil Minister in 2005 and led the de-Ba’athification campaign following the toppling of the Saddam Hussein regime.

The Sadrist Movement spokesman called on the State of Law coalition to abandon the Maliki premiership bid and put forward a substitute candidate. The Iraqi National Alliance is set to meet in the coming days to formally finalize a candidate, which is increasingly unlikely to be Maliki following his rejection of the formation of a national salvation government earlier this week.

“We recognize how difficult the situation is, but we need to work out a patriotic solution owing to the extremely critical circumstances the country is going through,” Jubouri said.

The latest wrangling within the Shi’ite-led Iraqi National Alliance comes as Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the senior-most Shi’ite cleric in Iraq, called on the country’s leadership to choose a new prime minister before Tuesday, when Iraq’s new parliament is set to meet. Sistani’s call places increased pressure on the Iraqi National Alliance to decide on a final candidate.