Baghdad: Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki said Thursday he had enough support to build a coalition government after elections a day earlier, but insisted he would not cling to the job.
Al Maliki, seeking a third term following his country’s first polls since US troops withdrew, faces significant opposition from within his own Shiite community, as well as Sunni Arabs and Kurds.
He has been criticised over a marked deterioration in security as well as rampant corruption, high unemployment and what his rivals say has been insufficient improvement in basic services.
But with vote counting having only just started and final results not expected for at least two weeks, he said “we have an ability to pass the 165 (seat threshold)” required to form a majority government.
“We have confidence that we will achieve a political majority,” he added.
Following elections in 2005 and 2010, Iraqi leaders agreed to national unity governments that included all of the country’s major parties and communal groups, but Al Maliki has vowed not to pursue such a track again.
“I am warning against going back to the sectarian (quotas), and I will not be part of it,” he said.
The premier insisted he was willing to give up the post if he was unable to form a government, saying: “My mother did not give birth to me as a minister or a prime minister.”
“I am not interested in this subject (of being prime minister),” he said, before adding: “At the same time... if I were the choice, I would consider myself obliged to respond.”
Al Maliki’s bloc is tipped to win the most seats, but the consensus among analysts is that no single party will gain an outright majority. Consequently, Iraq’s various political alliances and communal groups will have to form coalitions.
Complicating matters further is the fact that the three main positions of power - the president, typically a Kurd, the prime minister, normally a Shiite, and the speaker of parliament, usually a Sunni Arab - are often negotiated as an encompassing package.
Al Maliki’s critics have accused him of concentrating power and marginalising the Sunni minority, and say public services have not sufficiently improved during his eight-year rule.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said Iraqis had “courageously voted”, sending “a powerful rebuke to the violent extremists” in Iraq and the region.
The UN Security Council urged Iraq’s leaders to form a government “that represents the will and sovereignty of the Iraqi people” as soon as possible.
The Security Council, in a statement, stressed “no act of violence or terrorism can reverse a path towards peace, democracy and reconstruction in Iraq, underpinned by the rule of law and respect for human rights, which is supported by the people and the government of Iraq and the international community”.