Iraq’s parliament fails to agree on formation of new government

The Washington Post reports: The inaugural session of Iraq’s parliament collapsed Tuesday after heated exchanges and a walkout, dampening hopes that the country’s fractious politicians will rise to the challenge presented by the insurgency tearing their nation apart.

Sunni and Kurdish lawmakers left the at times chaotic meeting after less than two hours, with no progress made on forming a new government. After their exit, Mahdi Hafidh, the acting speaker of the newly elected parliament, adjourned the session until next week, citing the lack of a quorum in the 328-member chamber.

The formation of a government is urgent as Iraq confronts the biggest threat to its existence since it won independence in 1932. Al-Qaeda-inspired insurgents have conquered much of the north and west of the country, Kurds have asserted control over the northern city of Kirkuk, and the government in Baghdad has been scrambling to hold together what is left of its collapsing security forces.

The head of the Islamist insurgency, meanwhile, has urged his radical fighters to step up their attacks in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began Sunday.

Caretaker Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is attempting to remain in power despite a groundswell of opposition to his quest for a third term, was among those who attended the parliamentary session in central Baghdad.

It is his future that is the most divisive issue facing lawmakers, but parliament must also make selections for two other top posts — the speaker and the president. There was no indication Tuesday that it was closer to a deal.

Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlak, a Sunni, said that the candidates would be decided in the next “week or two” but that there was little doubt that Maliki would be replaced. “The matter is over. They know they have to choose a new prime minister.” [Continue reading…]

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