President Barham Salih names ex-communications minister Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi as new premier, two months after former PM Adil Abdul Mahdi resigned under pressure from the street.
Iraqi President Barham Salih appointed on Saturday Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi as new prime minister, state TV reported after squabbling political parties failed to name a candidate in the two months since the former premier was ousted by popular protests.
Allawi would run the country until early elections can be held. He must form a new government within a month.
In a pre-recorded statement posted online, Allawi called on protesters to continue with their uprising against corruption and said he would quit if the blocs insist on imposing names of ministers.
"After the president appointed me to form a new government a short while ago, I wanted to talk to you first," Allawi said, addressing the camera in the Iraqi dialect.
"I will ask you to keep up the protests because if you are not with me, I won't be able to do anything," Allawi said.
"|If it wasn't for your sacrifices and courage there wouldn't have been any change in the country," he said addressing anti-government protesters. "I have faith in you and ask you to continue with the protests."
Former prime minister Adil Abdul Mahdi resigned in November amid mass anti-government unrest where hundreds of thousands of Iraqis took to the streets demanding the removal of Iraq's political elite.
Nearly 500 protesters have been killed in a deadly crackdown by security forces.
Allawi was born in Baghdad and served as communications minister first in 2006 and again between 2010-2012. He resigned from his post after a dispute with former prime minister Nouri al Maliki.
On Wednesday, President Saleh gave parliamentary blocs until February 1 to select a premier candidate or said he would exercise his constitutional powers and choose one himself.
Will protesters accept him?
Parliament is expected to put his candidacy to a vote in the next session, after which point he has 30 days to formulate a government programme and select a cabinet of ministers.
However, protesters are likely to oppose him as prime minister.
For demonstrators who demand the removal of what they say is a corrupt ruling elite, the former communications minister under ex-premier Maliki – who presided over the fall of multiple Iraqi cities to Daesh in 2014 and is accused of pro-Shia sectarian policies – is part of the system and therefore unacceptable.
Iraq is facing its biggest crisis since the military defeat of Daesh in 2017. A mostly Shia popular uprising in Baghdad and the south challenges the country's mainly Iran-backed Shia Muslim ruling elite.
If elected by parliament, Allawi will have to contend with navigating Iraq through brewing regional tensions between Tehran and Washington.
External factors impacting protests
The country has been thrown into further disarray since the killing of Iranian military mastermind Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike in Baghdad on January 3. Iran responded with missile attacks on bases hosting US forces, pushing the region to the brink of an all-out conflict.
Pro-Iran politicians have tried to use those events to shift the focus away from popular discontent with their grip on power and towards anti-American rallies and demands for the withdrawal of US troops.