Nouri al-Maliki set to be replaced as Iraq’s prime minister

The Guardian reports: Iraq’s embattled prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, appeared to have lost his job on Monday, after the country’s president appointed a rival Shia candidate to form a new government.

In a major defeat for Maliki, Iraq’s largest coalition of Shia political parties nominated Haider al-Abadi, a member of Maliki’s Shia Islamist Dawa party, to take over as prime minister.

Iraq’s Kurdish president, Fouad Massoum, formally announced Abadi’s appointment soon afterwards. The move is likely to deepen Iraq’s political turmoil and comes just hours after Maliki deployed his elite security troops on the streets of Baghdad.

The international community has repeatedly put pressure on Maliki to step down. It says that his divisive sectarian politics have enabled the rise of Islamic State (Isis) militants, who have captured large swaths of the country over the past three months.

But a defiant Maliki has insisted that he has the right to carry on as prime minister following elections in April because he commands the largest bloc in the Iraqi parliament.

In a TV address on Sunday he accused Massoum of violating the consitution by failing to name a prime minister within 15 days. Pointedly, he also sent Iraq government forces on Sunday evening to the green zone, the home of Iraq’s government, and to the president’s residence.

It was unclear whether Maliki will now accept the president’s decision or resist attempts to replace him. Abadi, the first deputy speaker of Iraq’s parliament, is a member of Maliki’s party, which in recent weeks has turned against the prime minister.

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