Iraq's Prime Minister-designate, Mohammed Allawi, announced the withdrawal of his candidacy via Twitter late last night, only hours after a second attempt at getting approval for his cabinet failed.
The former PM-designate addressed the nation in the early hours of 2 March, accusing members of parliament and unnamed political parties of deliberately preventing the formation of a government, and prolonging anti-government protests which started in October.
Allawi failed to achieve quorum twice, managing to convene only 120 MPs in a session last week, a far cry from the 165 needed, after some Kurdish and Sunni parties appeared to deliberately avoid the meeting.
Allawi said political parties "were not serious about implementing reforms that they promised to the people", adding that,
…as a sign of respect to the confidence that I was given when I was appointed to form the government, I promised that I would resign if I face any political pressure, because I had promised that I would form an independent government, devoid of political party representatives.
Allawi was designated prime minister on 1 February, and under the Iraqi constitution, had until 2 March to form a cabinet.
Allawi had attempted to form a cabinet of technocrats and independents to satisfy protesters' demands but faced difficulties after he failed to adhere to the muhasasa system.
Introduced in Iraq after the US-led invasion of 2003, the muhasasa system ensures proportional representation among the country's various ethno-sectarian groups.
Though rules are unwritten, traditionally the Kurds control the finance ministry, the Sunnis the defence ministry and the Shias the interior ministry.
Read: Iraq confirms 5 new coronavirus cases
Allawi also faced opposition of his secretive selection of ministers, which is unusual in Iraq, with the political factions threatening to withdraw over the process.
Anti-government protesters had publicly rejected Allawi's authority, despite a far-reaching reform programme which included anti-corruption measures and called for early elections.
Allawi apologised for his failure to form a government, saying: "I am calling on the Mr President [Barham Salih] to accept my apology that I cannot carry out the responsibility I was given."
As part of the speech, Allawi called on the protests to continue, expressing hope that "the sacrifices [demonstrators] have made will not go waste".
Shortly after the televised address, two mortar shells landed in Iraq's Green Zone nearby the US Embassy and government offices. Security officials reported no injuries.
Allawi's withdrawal comes after months of protests which have killed 500 people and wounded at least 30,000 since October, forced the resignation of former Prime minister Adel Abdul Mahdi.
President Salih is expected to begin consultations to designate a new candidate for prime minister within the next 15 days.
Iraq: MPs shun vote to approve new cabinet, again