Two Shiite Muslim-led groups in Iraq that merged this month to create the biggest bloc of seats in parliament have agreed on their candidate for prime minister, according to a senior member, Ali al-Dabbagh.
The National Alliance, which includes Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s State of Law party and the Iraqi National Alliance, will announce its selection “in the coming days,” al-Dabbagh, who is also the official government spokesman, said in a telephone interview from Baghdad today.
The bloc’s failure to agree on a candidate has contributed to a delay in forming a new government since elections on March 7. Under the constitution, the largest bloc gets first crack at forming the government only if it has a premiership candidate. The Shiite bloc needs four more seats to reach the 163 needed for a majority in the 325-seat assembly.
No group won enough seats to govern alone and political leaders have been seeking allies since the vote. The maneuvering coincides with U.S. preparations to cut its Iraq force to 50,000 from 86,000 by September, before a full withdrawal next year.
When the Shiite merger was announced on June 11, officials from all segments of the bloc said no deal had been reached on a candidate for prime minister. State of Law has insisted al- Maliki should stay for another four years. The INA has opposed al-Maliki, favoring one of their own leaders.
Al-Dabbagh wouldn’t be drawn on the identity of the alliance’s candidate, and it wasn’t clear how the dispute had been resolved. Officials from the Sadr Trend and the Iraqi Supreme Islamic Council, the two main components of the INA, weren’t available to confirm the spokesman’s comments.
Al-Dabbagh said he was “the architect” of a meeting in the capital late yesterday between al-Maliki and Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, who also claims to lead the largest bloc in parliament.
The aim of the meeting was “to maintain the dialogue” and “collectively push the political process forward,” said al- Dabbagh, who was present for the two hours of talks at Allawi’s party headquarters.
Committees have been formed to represent al-Maliki’s and Allawi’s camps and will meet in the next few days, al-Dabbagh said. Al-Maliki and Allawi will attend the meetings only “if necessary,” he said.
Alia Talib, a member of Allawi’s Iraqiyah coalition, said today in an interview in Baghdad that yesterday’s talks were “very positive.”
State of Law came second in the elections, with 89 seats of the 325 seats, and the INA third, with 70. Iraqiyah, which was mostly backed by Sunni Muslim and secular voters, came first, winning 91 seats.