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Iraq postpones vote on cabinet again as clock ticks

Legislators have until Monday to agree on cabinet or president will be forced to designate new candidate for prime minister
Iraqi policemen stand behind barbed wire during ongoing anti-government demonstrations in Baghdad's Tahrir Square on Sunday (AFP)

Iraq's parliament adjourned a session to approve a cabinet proposed by Prime Minister-designate Mohammed Allawi for a second time in days on Sunday because not enough lawmakers turned up to make a vote official.

Legislators had also failed to agree on a new government on Thursday, prolonging deadlock and delaying attempts to resolve unprecedented mass unrest that has stalled the country’s recovery from years of war, Reuters said.

Parliament speaker Mohammed Halbusi did not schedule a new date for the session, but noted that a constitutional deadline for the vote would expire on Monday, AFP reported.

Political infighting and alleged widespread corruption have crippled Iraq’s efforts to recover from two US invasions, sanctions and war to defeat the Islamic State group in 2017.

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The country faces a mass protest movement that broke out in October and brought down former Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi two months later. His cabinet has stayed on in a caretaker capacity.

The protests, which first demanded jobs and services, quickly turned into calls for the removal of Iraq’s entire ruling elite. Protesters oppose Allawi because they view him as part of the system they want to bring down.

Legislators have until Monday to agree on a cabinet or President Barham Salih will be forced to designate a new candidate for prime minister, according to the constitution.

According to political sources, the president intends to propose intelligence chief Mustafa al-Kazimi, according to AFP.

Abdul Mahdi issued a statement late on Sunday denying social media reports that he wanted to stay on, saying he will announce his intentions on Monday after the deadline had passed.

Iraq's parliament is the most divided in its recent history and Allawi is struggling to secure support from Sunni Arab and Kurdish minorities for his proposed cabinet. 

Over the past week, he has adjusted the line-up to bolster support, while also holding talks with Sunni and Kurdish representatives. 

Demonstrations

Anti-government demonstrators rallied in Baghdad and southern hotspots on Sunday to press for a government of technocrats not beholden to political parties or foreign interests, said an AFP correspondent. 

Security forces and powerful militia groups have shot dead hundreds of mostly unarmed demonstrators. About 500 people have been killed in unrest since October, most of them protesters, according to a Reuters tally from medics and police.

On Sunday, security forces killed one person and wounded 24 at an anti-government protest in Baghdad, a police source said.

The number of protesters has decreased somewhat, but demonstrations continue on a daily basis.