BAGHDAD (AP) — The speaker of Iraq’s parliament declared Thursday that lawmakers are prepared to oust the nation’s prime minister if he refuses to share authority with his political opponents and break a deadlock that has all but paralyzed the government.
The threat by the speaker, Osama al-Nujaifi, a leader in the Sunni-dominated Iraqiya political coalition, counters a claim last week by Iraq’s president that there is not enough support in parliament to call a vote to push Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki from power.
Speaking to reporters Thursday, al-Nujaifi said he personally believes al-Maliki, a Shiite Muslim, should step down from the job that he barely won after national elections in 2010 failed to produce a clear winner.
Since then — and particularly after U.S. troops left Iraq last December — critics have accused al-Maliki of sidelining his political opponents and violating agreements to share power within a unity government.
The political deadlock has all but brought Iraq’s government to a standstill so far this year.
Bickering between the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad and the self-rule Kurdish region in Iraq’s north threatens to stunt vital foreign investment in the country’s lucrative oil industry.
Provinces with majority Sunni populations have threatened to create their own autonomous regions. Political lethargy, combined with red tape, has delayed improvements in many areas, including the nation’s electricity system, job creation and rooting out government corruption.
The deadlock has continued against a backdrop of sporadic but deadly bursts of violence: 120 Iraqis have been killed over the last 10 days alone in bombings mostly targeting Shiite pilgrims and security officials across Baghdad and beyond.
“This is a dangerous matter that if continued would lead to catastrophic consequences,” al-Nujaifi said as parliament prepared to return to work after a six-week recess.
He said al-Maliki would be summoned for questioning in front of parliament within days. “And if there is a parliament majority that is not convinced with the results of the questioning, then the no-confidence vote will take place,” al-Nujaifi said. He called the process “an attempt to put the country on the right track again.”
In April, heeding complaints from his followers, hard-line Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr met with Sunni and Kurdish leaders in what was widely viewed as a summit to plot al-Maliki’s ouster. But on Thursday, al-Sadr released a statement on his website saying “he tends not to intervene” in such matters.
Last week, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, said a preliminary count of lawmakers who want al-Maliki to step down fell four short of the 164 votes needed to force the issue. Al-Nujaifi denied that, saying that while a few lawmakers backed off, “the number is still enough.”
Responding, the prime minister’s media adviser, Ali al-Moussawi, said al-Maliki will answer parliament’s questions and respects his opponents’ rights to call for the no-confidence vote. “But we are confident that they will fail to secure the needed 164 votes,” al-Moussawi said Thursday.
Al-Maliki also has called for a special session of parliament to address lawmakers in public, said Safa al-Din al-Safi, the state minister for parliament affairs. A date for that session has not yet been set.
Al-Nujaifi also said he, too, would step down if enough lawmakers voted to expel him — a process he said was firmly guaranteed under Iraq’s constitution.
“Iraq has efficient and qualified people and figures who can lead Iraq and who can take Iraq into a new horizon,” he said. “Now we are in severe political crisis and we hope to get out of it.”
Associated Press writers Qassim Abdul-Zahra, Sameer N. Yacoub and Bushra Juhi contributed to this report.
More Related Stories
- Mississippi could begin prosecuting women for miscarriages
- Teenage girl claims she was beaten up for looking like Taylor Swift
- UK Military: London attack victim was a "model soldier"
- Billionaire hedge funder: Babies, breast-feeding "kill" focus, keep women from succeeding
- "Bookless library" set to open in Texas
- 2 more arrested in London attacks
- Glenn Beck: CNN interview with atheist tornado survivor was a setup!
- Incoming BBC news director on journalism gender gap: "We can do better"
- Illegal construction, shoddy materials at fault in Bangladesh factory disaster
- Ahead of Obama's speech, U.S. acknowledges four American drone killings
- Must-see morning clip: Bill O'Reilly visits "The Daily Show"
- Lawsuit alleges anti-gay hiring practices at ExxonMobil
- Boy Scouts poised to vote, still greatly divided on gay youth
- House supporters of KXL received $56m from fossil fuel industry
- 80-year-old becomes oldest to climb Mount Everest
- Before FBI shooting man implicated self, Tsarnaev in triple murder
- Paul McCartney backs Pussy Riot
- UK emergency committee convenes after attack
- Brave scout leader tried to reason with London attackers
- If Alex Pareene were a cable news executive...
- El Salvador court delays ruling on abortion case while woman's life hangs in the balance
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11