Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki resigns to end Baghdad crisis
Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki has announced his resignation on Thursday, conceding defeat to rising opposition from his party and associates in parliament.
The embattled leader publicly accepted president Fuad Masum’s decision for Dr Haider Al-Abadi to form the new coalition government, which regional powers hope will stem the growing Islamist insurgency rocking the stability in Baghdad.
Maliki said: “I announce before you today, to ease the movement of the political process and the formation of the new government, the withdrawal of my candidacy in favour of brother Al-Abadi.”
Relatively unknown Maliki – a Shia Muslim – came into power in 2006 following the deposition of Sunni leader Saddam Hussein in a so called War on Terror, backed by western powers and led by the US.
Sectarian violence between a Sunni majority and Shia groups threatened to tear the country apart at that time.
The end of his eight-year term is likely to be hailed by Iraq’s large Sunni population, who have long felt marginalised.
Since taking over from the Iraqi Transitional Government in 2006 Maliki faced pressure from turbulent uprisings in Middle Eastern countries as well as problems at home from an emboldened Sunni insurgency. In the last few months previous backers in the West as well as members of his own Islamic Dawa Party called for his resignation.
In a dramatic shift on Wednesday some members of his cabinet openly declared their support for incumbent PM.
His successor Haider Al-Abadi, a Shia Muslim spent 20 years in exile in the UK after receiving a PhD degree from the University of Manchester. He returned to Iraq in 2003 where he began his political career as the minister of communications in the Iraqi Governing Council. In 2005 he served as a special advisor to the first elected prime minister following the demise of Saddam Hussein, and his name was circulated in political circles after Maliki took over from Ibrahim al-Jaafari.
Al-Abadi’s appointment comes soon after the UN’s declaration of highest state of emergency in Iraq as government forces battle against Islamic State (IS) fighters in the north. According to figures over 5,500 civilians have been killed in a militant offensive which has lasted for more than six months now.