Iraqi Prime Minister-designate Adnan Al-Zurfi has resigned his candidacy this morning after he failed to gather enough support to form a government.
Al-Zurfi announced his resignation on Twitter, saying: "I offer my apologies first to everyone who put trust in us."
The former PM-designate blamed "internal and external reasons" for his inability to form a government, adding that these issues "will not prevent me from continuing to serve the people through my current parliamentary position, and I will continue to work and prepare with you for the upcoming early elections.
In the wake of Al-Zurfi's resignation, President Barham Saleh named intelligence chief Mustafa Al-Kadhimi as the new candidate.
According to state media, Al-Kadhimi's nomination ceremony was held in the presence of Iraq's leading political figures, in contrast to the ceremonies of the two previous candidates, who have both since resigned from their posts.
Al-Kadhimi has been rumoured to be among prime ministerial contenders since December, following the previous incumbent, Adil Abdul Mahdi's resignation.
The new PM-designate now has 30 days to form a government and present it to parliament for approval, as per the constitution.
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Following the announcement, Al-Kadhimi said on Twitter: "I am honoured and privileged to be tasked with forming Iraq's next government. I will work tirelessly to present Iraqis with a program and a cabinet that will work to serve them, protect their rights and take Iraq towards a prosperous future".
I am honored and privileged to be tasked with forming Iraq's next government. I will work tirelessly to present Iraqis with a program and cabinet that will work to serve them, protect their rights and take Iraq towards a prosperous future.
— Mustafa Al-Kadhimi مصطفى الكاظمي (@MAKadhimi) April 9, 2020
Iraq has been embroiled in political infighting since anti-government protests erupted in October. Around 500 people have been killed in unrest since October, with 15,000 more injured, according to a Reuters tally from medics and police.
The protests unseated Abdel Mahdi in late November, sparking an ongoing battle to form a government, which in Iraq, has never been an easy process.
The first candidate designated to succeed Abdel Mahdi, Mohammed Allawi, withdrew his candidacy on 1 March after parliament twice failed to achieve quorum to approve his government.
In his resignation speech Allawi, who had attempted to a form a cabinet of technocrats and independents, said political parties "were not serious about implementing reforms that they promised the people".
Al-Kadhimi now faces the challenge of uniting the country's political factions to form a government, as Iraq struggles to contain the outbreak of coronavirus, which has infected 1,202, and killed 69 to date.