BAGHDAD: Iraq’s new president has charged the deputy speaker of parliament Haider Al-Ibadi with forming a new government in the next 30 days.
Fouad Massoum said on television Monday that he hoped Al-Ibadi would succeed in forming a government that would “protect the Iraqi people.”
The president’s choice is a very public snubbing of incumbent Prime Minister Nouri el-Maliki who in an angry midnight speech all but demanded he be re-nominated for a third term.
Maliki has deployed his elite security forces in the streets of Baghdad, partially closed two main streets — popular spots for pro and anti-government rallies — as hundreds of his supporters took to the streets.
But state television showed footage of the president shaking hands with Ibadi and telling him: “I hope you will be successful in forming a broader-based government.”
In his first statement as prime minister, Al-Ibadi called on Iraqis to unite against the “barbaric” campaign waged by Islamic State militants whose latest sweep through the north has caused alarm at home and abroad.
“We all have to cooperate to stand against this terrorist campaign launched on Iraq and to stop all terrorist groups,” he said in remarks broadcast on state television just after the president asked him to form a government.
Iraq’s highest court earlier issued a ruling suggesting Maliki’s State of Law Shiite bloc is the biggest in parliament and therefore was entitled to nominate a candidate for prime minister.
Maliki’s aides were not immediately available for comment. He has defied calls by Sunnis, Kurds, some fellow Shiites and regional power broker Iran to step aside for a less polarising figure.
Critics say Maliki alienated Sunnis, prompting them to support Islamic State militants who have seized a large chunk of northern Iraq and have threatened to march on Baghdad, posing the biggest threat to Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Ibadi is a low-key figure who spent time in Britain. According to his Facebook biography, his favorite quotation is “the key to leadership is tolerance.”
Sectarian violence has become widespread in Iraq again, reaching levels seen when a civil war peaked in 2006-2007.
Educated at the University of Manchester, Ibadi served as the head of parliament’s finance committee, a political adviser to the prime minister and minister of communications.
The Godfather and The Matrix are among his favorite movies, according to a Facebook entry.