As Iraq moves closer to forming a new government, the incumbent Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi says he is not seeking to serve a second term in office.
“We respect and obey the instructions of the religious authority Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. I did not and will not request the post of prime minister in the second term,” he said at a news conference in Baghdad on Thursday.
Sistani, the country’s most senior Shia cleric, had said earlier in the week that he would not support either Abadi or his predecessor Nouri al-Maliki for the post.
The prime minister also urged that the process of government formation would take place amid calm.
“Our service for the [Iraqi] people will continue until the new government is established. We will give everyone a lesson on how to make a governmental change in peaceful ways,” he noted.
Abadi urged political factions to close up their rifts in order to prevent them from being abused by terrorists.
“Terrorism is waiting for sharp political disputes so it can hit. Until now, we’re still controlling the security situation and our intelligence is breaking through the terrorists and preventing them from committing any acts,” he said. “But I’m calling upon the political parties to control their political disputes and not allow them to extend to the streets,” Abadi added.
Iraq’s parliamentary blocs are still struggling to form the government after legislative elections in May.
In early September, lawmakers following senior cleric Muqtada Sadr, whose Sairoon bloc came first in the polls, and Abadi, who finished third with his Nasr Alliance, said they had created an alliance. The MPs said the alliance would give them a majority bloc at the Parliament, empowering them to create the government.
Over the weekend, however, Sadr’s bloc and a rival faction led by Hadi al-Amiri, the head of Badr Organization which is Iraq’s biggest Shia Muslim paramilitary group, used an emergency meeting held at the Parliament over recent deadly protests in the southern city of Basra to call on Abadi to resign over his performance as premier.
The Parliament is to elect a new speaker on Saturday. The results of the vote will give a concrete indication as to which bloc will be able to form the future cabinet.
Amiri has also said that he would work with Sadr to form a new government that excluded Abadi.
According to Iraqi health officials, clashes between protesters and security forces killed at least 15 people and injured some 250 others in the city earlier in the week.
More than 30,000 people have reportedly been hospitalized as a result of pollution in the water supply in Basra, where anger over mismanagement and the quality of public services boiled over in July and spread to other cities.
Also on Thursday, Abadi said a team of advisors would “assure the immediate implementation” of new water pumping, routing, and filtration projects there, AFP reported.