Iraqi PM designate gets challenge of forming government
Veteran Iraqi politician and Prime Minister designate Adel Abdel Mahdi on Wednesday (October 3rd) began the tough task of forming the next government, seeking to overcome sharp differences and unite political parties.
In a surprise move Tuesday, just hours after being elected, new President Barham Saleh handed Abdel Mahdi the difficult task of navigating Iraq's tangled politics to form a government within 30 days.
Saleh, 58, swept to the post of president of Iraq on Tuesday evening in a parliamentary vote, routing his main rival Fuad Hussein with 219 votes to 22.
He is a moderate who has served as Iraqi deputy prime minister under Nuri al-Maliki and as head of the Kurdish regional government.
A Shia and native of Baghdad, the 76-year-old Abdel Mahdi is regarded as an independent. An economist by training who has served as oil minister, he will be able to call on years of experience as a regular on Iraq's diplomatic scene.
Several different blocs in the Iraqi parliament have been jostling for power following the May 12th parliamentary elections, which has stymied the formation of a new government.
Iraq has a proportional system designed to prevent a slide into dictatorship.
The largely ceremonial role of president, now taken by Saleh, has been reserved for the Kurds since Iraq's first multi-party elections in 2005.
Under the power-sharing deal, the post of prime minister is held by a Shia, while the speaker of parliament is Sunni Arab -- a post filled last month by Mohammed al-Halbusi.
Abdel Mahdi, a former Iraqi vice president, has proven political credentials and is regarded as a rare figure of consensus. He is credited with having good relations with a number of Kurdish leaders.
An economist by training, he has won the backing of US and European leaders. In 2014, he took up the post of oil minister under al-Abadi, before resigning two years later.
Now he has just 30 days to navigate tangled Iraqi politics and form a government. If he fails, then another candidate will have to be chosen.
Responding to a message of congratulations from outgoing Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, Abdel Mahdi showed he was wary of the task ahead, referring to it as "a heavy responsibility".