Further destabilization rocked Iraq on Sunday as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki accused President Fouad Massoum of engaging in a “coup” by failing to choose a new prime minister by an Sunday’s deadline.
In a last-minute bid to cling to power, Mr. al-Maliki declared the inaction to be “a clear constitutional violation” and said he planned to file a legal complaint against Mr. Massoum, who was named the new president in late July.
“This attitude represents a coup on the constitution and the political process in a country that is governed by a democratic and federal system,” Mr. al-Maliki said in a surprise address on Iraqi TV.
“The deliberate violation of the constitution by the president will have grave consequences on the unity, the sovereignty, and the independence of Iraq and the entry of the political process into a dark tunnel,” he said.
Mr. al-Maliki’s party won the largest share of seats in the parliament and said the president should have appointed a prime minister from that bloc by now.
A parliamentary session to discuss picking a new prime minister has been delayed until Aug. 19.
In the hours following Mr. al-Maliki’s accusation, Brett McGurk, the State Department’s deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, announced via Twitter that the U.S. would continue to support Mr. Massoum.
“Fully support President of Iraq Fuad Masum as guarantor of the Constitution and a PM nominee who can build a national consensus,” he tweeted.
Later, deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf repeated those words and said the Iraqi prime minister needs to “represent the aspirations of the Iraqi people by building a national consensus and governing in an inclusive manner. We reject any effort to achieve outcomes through coercion or manipulation of the constitutional or judicial process.”
Mr. al-Maliki has been under pressure from the United States and Grand Ayatollah Najafi, Iraq’s senior Shiite religious leader, to step aside for a less polarizing figure.
Both the U.S. government and the religious leader see Mr. al-Maliki’s removal from power as key to resolving Iraq’s political crisis.
Mr. al-Maliki has been the prime minister of Iraq since 2006 and wants a third term.
On the ground in Baghdad, security measures were also implemented.
Agence France-Presse reported that Iraqi special forces moved to strategic areas around the perimeter of the city and blocked some of Baghdad’s bridges. There als
On the ground in Baghdad, Security measures were also implemented.
Agence France-Presse reported that Iraqi special forces moved to strategic areas around the perimeter of the city and blocked some of Baghdad’s bridges. There also reports via social media, though they could not be confirmed, that Baghdad airport had been shut down.