Iraq Postpones Vote for President, Delaying Power-Sharing Deal

(Reuters) -

Iraq’s parliament, which had been due to elect the country’s president on Wednesday, postponed the vote by a day, delaying the formation of a power-sharing government urgently needed to confront a Sunni Muslim insurgency.

The advance by Sunni Islamist insurgents who seized swathes of northern Iraq last month has put the OPEC oil producer’s survival in jeopardy. Its politicians have been deadlocked over forming a new government since an election in April.

Islamic State, an al-Qaida offshoot that is leading the insurgency, claimed responsibility for an overnight suicide bombing in a Shi’ite district of Baghdad that killed 33 people, one of the deadliest recent attacks in the capital.

The bloodshed highlighted the need for Iraq’s politicians to form a united front against the insurgents, who want to march on the capital. Under Iraq’s governing system, in place since the post-Saddam Hussein constitution was adopted in 2005, the prime minister is a member of the Shi’ite majority, the speaker a Sunni and the largely ceremonial president a Kurd. Speaker Salim al-Jubouri told parliament that the Kurds had asked for a one-day delay on the vote so they could agree on a candidate. Parliament has until the end of the month to choose a president, who will then have 15 days to nominate a prime minister.

“Iraq cannot afford a protracted government formation process as the current threats continue to challenge the existence of the Iraqi state,” Nickolay Mladenov, the U.N. special envoy to Iraq, told the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday.