Al-Jaafari’s Dawa Party announced that he has “given up his bid and is ready to quite the candidacy in the best interest of the country,” only a day after he repeated his refusal to step down.
Following al-Jaafari’s statement, the Shiite alliance said it would hold a new internal vote to name a prime minister. After winning the most seats in Iraq’s parliament, the Shiite alliance nominates a prime minister to be approved by the entire parliament. But with only 130 of the 275 seats, the Shiites need the backing of Sunnis and Kurds to guarantee their candidate’s appointment.
Al-Jaafari garnered support from Muqtada al-Sadr, the influential Shiite cleric leader of the al-Mahdi Army, but faced fierce opposition from Kurdish and Sunni Arab parties who blamed him for Iraq’s deteriorating security and economic problems.
The deadlock over al-Jaafari’s nomination had stalled efforts to form an Iraqi government after parliamentary elections Dec. 15. The Iraqi parliament delayed for the second time a meeting over the formation of a new government that was scheduled for Thursday until Saturday.
Shiite leaders planned to meet Saturday on whether to replace al-Jaafari. Jawad al-Maliki, spokesman for the prime minister’s Dawa Party, and Ali al-Adeeb, another leading Dawa politician, were among those mentioned as replacements.
Al-Jaafari won the Shiite coalition’s nomination in February with the support of al-Sadr by defeating Vice President Adil Abdul-Mahdi by only one vote.
U.S. and British officials have pressured Iraqi politicians to resolve the impasse over the prime minister post and continue working to form a government of national unity between Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds. The deadlock over forming a government has coincided with a surge in sectarian violence that has pushed Iraq to the brink of civil war.
After a prime minister is selected, the parliament plans to fill other top posts, including the president, two vice presidents, parliament speaker and the two deputy speakers.