Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi speaks at his weekly press conference in Baghdad on Thursday. Photo: Iraqi PM office
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said he won’t cling to power amid growing opposition to him seeking a second term.
“In three years alone, we built a professional protective army, prevented the division of the country and united it. Iraq was liberated from Daesh [ISIS] and imposed the authority of the state on all areas. We preserved national wealth, broke the barriers of sectarianism, and rectified our foreign relations,” tweeted Abadi’s media office on Thursday afternoon.
All this was done without “clinging to power,” his office added.
In what may be one of his final press conferences as prime minister, Abadi repeated the sentiment to reporters in Baghdad on Thursday evening.
"Never did I ask to cling to power, or for a second term to be for us. I wasn't seeking a second term,” he said, explaining that he anticipated post-election rivalries and so resisted registering his Nasr alliance for the vote.
"I went along with the current and I wish I hadn't,” he said.
He took the opportunity to urge parties to speed up the process of electing the parliament speaker and subsequent naming of the president and prime minister.
Abadi warned that political disputes could spill out onto the streets, creating instability and insecurity and could give space to terrorists to target civilians.
"Transition of power in Iraq needs to be peaceful, not through intimidation,” he said.
Until this month, Abadi was the favourite to fill the premiership as parties vied to take control of the parliament after the May 12 election.
His hopes for a second term, however, appear to have ended as multiple sides have laid at his feet blame for the government corruption and mismanagement that sparked a summer of deadly protests in the southern province of Basra.
Among his detractors is the highest Shiite authority – the Marja – which did not name Abadi directly but said it would not support any of the established power players.
“We are committed to constitutional measures and we respect the directives of the supreme religious Marja, and we heed it,” his office stated.
Abadi’s own backer Muqtada al-Sadr’s Sayirun have lost faith in his ability to lead the country through the Basra crisis.
The party of Sadr, a populist who has criticized the ruling elite, won the most votes in the election, but he announced he would take the position of opposition if his demands for the new government are not met.
“We had agreed with the ‘seniors of Iraq’ to nominate multiple technocratic, independent individuals for the premiership based on a strictly Iraqi decision, with the candidate selecting his ministers apart from party, sectarian, and ethnic divisions, rather according to correct and acceptable standards based on specialization, expertise, and integrity,” he tweeted on Thursday.
If this is rejected, Sadr said he will take the stance of opposition.
Iraq’s parliament will sit on Saturday, a continuation of its delayed first session when it must elect a speaker, the first constitutionally-mandated step to forming the government.
Updated at 11:48 pm