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Iraqi Shi'ite Blocs Discuss How To Select Prime Minister

The agreement means a potential consensus between Nuri al-Maliki's State of Law Coalition and the Iraqi National Alliance.
BAGHDAD -- A leading official in one of Iraq's two largest Shi'ite electoral blocs says the two have agreed on a way to nominate the country's next prime minister, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reports.

Ammar Tuma told RFI today that the State of Law Coalition, led by outgoing Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, and the Iraqi National Alliance, led by former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jafaari, have agreed to nominate the next prime minister by consensus.

The two blocs agreed to join forces in a political alliance on May 4.

Tuma, who belongs to the Iraqi National Alliance, added that if the two blocs fail to come to a consensus on an acceptable nominee they would seek other alternatives, including a vote. But Tuma said "the winner in such a case would have to receive something like 75 or 80 percent of the votes to ensure the closest thing possible to selection by consensus."

Hachim al-Hasani, a Sunni and a leading member of the State of Law Coalition, told RFI that the two blocs had agreed on common principles and a platform rather than a specific mechanism to nominate the next prime minister. He said "we are still waiting for such a mechanism before we can agree on a nominee for prime minister."

Analyst Ibrahim al-Sumaidaei told RFI that the biggest obstacle threatening the newly announced alliance is the State of Law Coalition’s insistence on nominating Maliki for another term. The Iraqi National Alliance has strongly opposed his nomination, especially the party's wing that is close to radical Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Al-Sumaidaei said Iraq's political landscape will become clearer when a recount of votes from Iraq's March 7 election is completed.

Iraq's Independent Electoral Commission started the manual recount on May 3, and said it could take about three weeks.