Barham Salih says he's "ready to resign" rather than designate Asaad al Edani – the candidate of a pro-Iranian coalition for the post of the prime minister – who he said would be rejected by protesters.
Iraqi President Barham Salih on Thursday submitted his resignation to parliament after refusing to designate the nominee of an Iran-backed parliamentary bloc for prime minister.
"Out of my desire to stop blood and maintain peace, and with due respect to Asaad al Edani, I refuse to nominate him," Salih said.
"Therefore I put my willingness to resign the post of president to members of parliament so that they decide as representatives of the people what they see fit."
Salih said that he would rather resign than appoint someone to the position who would be rejected by protesters.
The Bina bloc, led by Iran-backed militia leader Hadi al Amiri, had nominated Basra Governor Edani to be the next prime minister.
But Salih said in a statement that appointing Edani would not placate protesters demanding an independent prime minister with no party affiliation or help calm the unrest that has rocked the country.
Ready to quit
Salih said that because the constitution does not give him the right to reject nominees for the premiership, he was ready to quit.
Mass protests have gripped Iraq since October 1 and the protesters, most of them young, are demanding an overhaul of a political system they see as profoundly corrupt and keeping most Iraqis in poverty.
More than 450 people have been killed.
Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi resigned last month as the protests continued, but he has remained in office in a caretaker capacity.
Sources in Salih's office said the president left Baghdad on Thursday for his hometown of Sulaimaniya in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq and that he would deliver a televised speech later.
According to Iraq’s constitution, the largest bloc in parliament is required to nominate the new prime minister, who then has to be designated by the president.
A deadline to name a new prime minister has been missed twice over disagreements on which is the largest bloc in the parliament following last year’s elections.
There are two main blocs in the Iraqi Parliament — Sairoon, led by populist Shia cleric Muqtada al Sadr, and Fatah, headed by Hadi al Amiri. But the numbers in the blocs have continued to change since last year's elections, with an unknown number of lawmakers leaving some blocs and joining others.
Shortly after he issued his statement, Salih left Baghdad and headed to his hometown in the northern city of Sulaimaniyah.
A Facebook page close to al Sadr commented on the president’s position saying: "Thank you, Mr. President, for rejecting the candidates that the people reject, a position that history, and the (Iraqi) people and the (Shia religious) authority will record."