BAGHDAD (AFP) – Nuri al-Maliki was awarded a second term as Iraq’s prime minister on Thursday, signaling an end may finally be in sight to the country’s eight month impasse following a general election in March.
President Jalal Talabani’s nomination of Maliki, delayed to give him as much time as possible to negotiate ministerial posts, comes after a power-sharing deal between Iraq’s divided factions was sealed two weeks ago and gives Maliki 30 days to complete the difficult task of forming a cabinet.
The months-long tussle has seen Iraq shatter the world record for the longest period without a new government after polls.
“I charge you … Nuri al-Maliki to form the new government, which we hope will be a real national partnership government which will not exclude any faction,” Talabani said at a ceremony at the Al-Salam presidential palace in Baghdad. “You have 30 days to form the cabinet.”
In remarks following his nomination, Maliki called for political blocs to present candidates for ministerial positions who had “experience, loyalty and integrity” and asked Iraqis to support the security forces as they fight a still present insurgent threat.
“The coming government will be committed to reconstruction and providing services,” Maliki said, according to media advisor Yassin Majid. “It will be a government of partnership, no one will be neglected.”
The rival blocs have all formed committees to negotiate their share of ministries and cabinet positions, which will be apportioned via a points-based system.
Each bloc will be assigned points based on its success in the March 7 election, and each ministry and government post will cost a set number of points depending on its importance.
Under Iraq’s constitution, Talabani was allowed 15 days to appoint a prime minister following his re-election by MPs on November 11.
He had earlier been expected to name Maliki, who first took the top job in 2006 when Iraq was mired in a brutal confessional war, as premier last Sunday, immediately after the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.
But he delayed the decision to give the incumbent more time to negotiate ministerial posts.
“Thirty days (to form a cabinet) is more than enough,” independent Kurdish MP Mahmud Othman told AFP. “They have been working on this issue for nine months now, so they should be able to do it.
“Nobody is confident of anything, but I think it is enough time if the political blocs will cooperate with each other and with him (Maliki). It’s a big if, but that’s what I think.”
The re-selection of Talabani, a Kurd, and Maliki, a Shiite, to their posts and the naming of a Sunni Arab as speaker of parliament came after a power-sharing pact was agreed on November 10.
It also established a new statutory body to oversee security as a sop to ex-premier Iyad Allawi, who had held out for months to regain the top job after his Iraqiya bloc narrowly won the most seats in the March 7 poll.
The support of Iraqiya, which garnered most of its seats in Sunni areas of the predominantly Shiite country, is widely seen as vital to preventing a resurgence of inter-confessional violence.
The Sunni minority which dominated Saddam Hussein’s regime was the bedrock of the anti-US insurgency after the 2003 invasion.
Despite being lauded by international leaders including US President Barack Obama, the power-sharing pact has looked fragile ever since.
A day after it was agreed, about 60 Iraqiya MPs walked out of a session of parliament, protesting that it was not being honored.
The bloc’s MPs had wanted three of its senior members, barred before the election for their alleged ties to Saddam’s banned Baath party, to be reinstated immediately.
Two days later, however, Iraq’s lawmakers appeared to have salvaged the deal after leaders from the country’s three main groupings met and agreed to reconcile and address the MPs’ grievances.