Iraqi Shiite Groups Delay Premiership Discussion Until After Eid Holiday

The two Shiite groups that together form the biggest bloc in the Iraqi parliament won’t continue discussions to select a candidate for the premiership until after Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday marking the end of the month of Ramadan, state-sponsored al-Iraqiyah television said.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s State of Law group and the Iraqi National Alliance merged after the March 7 parliamentary elections to form the National Alliance. The union brings their combined total of seats in the 325-member legislature to 159, four short of the number needed to form a government.

The National Alliance’s failure so far to agree on a sole candidate for the premiership has contributed to a six-month political stalemate since the vote. No group won enough seats to form a government without joining allies in a coalition.

State of Law wants al-Maliki to be the National Alliance’s candidate. The INA, which includes followers of anti-U.S. cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, is backing Adel Abdel Mahdi, one of two vice presidents. The bloc has said it will hold a vote to select one of the two leaders.

Talks on finding a mechanism to hold the candidacy ballot are continuing, according to a report in the London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper today. The alliance’s components also disagree on a compromise candidate, should neither al-Maliki nor Abdel Mahdi gain enough support, the Saudi-owned paper said.

The three-day Eid al-Fitr festivities may begin tomorrow or the day after, depending on when the new moon is sighted.

To contact the reporter on this story: Caroline Alexander in London at

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