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Iraqi political limbo may be nearing end, top politicians say

From Jomana Karadsheh, CNN
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Waiting for new Iraqi government
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Iraq's parliament is scheduled to vote on a new government on Tuesday
  • NEW: The parliament will also vote on the government's broad policy agenda
  • One lawmaker claims it will be "at least" Wednesday before the cabinet is presented
  • Another lawmaker says his bloc won't vote on an incomplete government
RELATED TOPICS
  • Iraq
  • Nuri al-Maliki

Baghdad (CNN) -- The Iraqi parliament plans to vote on a new government Tuesday, two top politicians said, potentially bringing months of political stalemate to a close.

Legislators will decide whether to approve a list of Cabinet members selected for the new government, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and Osama al-Nujaifi, speaker of the parliament, said Monday.

A separate vote will be held for each prospective Cabinet member, as well as for the government's overall agenda.

The long-awaited legislative action comes more than nine months after a hotly disputed national election that threatened to inflame the country's deep sectarian tensions.

This is a "day of pride" for the Iraqi people, al-Maliki said, referencing the difficulty associated with the process of assembling a new governing coalition.

Forming a genuine "national partnership" is "a very difficult and tough process because you need to find a place in the government for everyone who participated in the elections and everyone who won," he noted.

Not every legislator, however, appeared to agree with the short timetable cited in al-Maliki and al-Nujaifi's announcement. Lawmaker Mahmood Othman said Baghdad's political limbo, which started after no bloc won enough seats to create a governing coalition in the March 7 elections, could last a few days longer.

It will be "at least" Wednesday before the Cabinet is formally presented to parliament, he said.

Members of other blocs also said no final agreement on nominations had been reached.

Al-Maliki had until this weekend to unveil his Cabinet before a constitutionally mandated deadline to form a government runs out.

The government lineup, according to senior politicians, will be missing the three posts of security ministers -- interior, defense and national security -- who would control the country's army and police.

Politicians say more time is needed to nominate candidates for these sensitive posts.

But Amir al-Kinani, a member of parliament from radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's bloc, said the bloc would refuse to vote Monday on an incomplete government.

On Sunday former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi indicated that he would take part in the new Iraqi Cabinet that his rival, incumbent al-Maliki, planned to present -- ending weeks of uncertainty about whether he would participate.

Last month, Allawi walked out of parliament and declared power-sharing dead.

But he later issued a statement saying his al-Iraqiya bloc "will play our role actively, productively and cooperatively, and in a spirit of good faith and trust-building, as long as we find that this spirit is echoed and reciprocated by our partners in the political process."

Still, his cooperation and participation depend on other parties' respecting the power-sharing agreement -- a reality that remains uncertain, due to deep-seated mistrust between Iraq's political groups.

In the March 7 elections, Allawi's bloc won 91 seats, the largest number for any group, and al-Maliki's list trailed with 89.

But al-Maliki, who received the backing of the followers of al-Sadr and eventually the Kurds, managed to secure a second term.

A fragile, U.S.-brokered power-sharing deal forged last month between the major blocs signaled a possible end to the political squabbling. The deal mandates the creation of a National Council for Higher Policies, a body designed mainly to appease Allawi and other critics who accuse al-Maliki of abusing his powers.

"The aim of this council is not to weaken or undermine the executive, legislative or judiciary authorities, but rather to strengthen them by playing the role of a guarantor to push the agreed-upon programs and reforms in areas of higher policies; working to achieve political agreement; and as a vital institution to exercise true national partnership," Allawi said.

His confirmation of heading the council and parliament's lifting of a political ban Saturday on three politicians allied with him removed two major hurdles and signaled an imminent government announcement.

Allawi's bloc is Sunni-backed and the inclusion of Sunni Arabs in the government has been important for the stability of the security situation.

Many officials, including Allawi, have warned that the exclusion of the Sunnis or any other major group could lead to renewed sectarian violence.