BAGHDAD — Iraq's parliament Tuesday officially rescheduled its next session for early next week after criticism over initial plans for a five-week break, amid pressure for political leaders to agree on a new government that can confront militants who have overrun much of the country's north and west.
Acting parliament speaker Mahdi al-Hafidh said in a statement that after considering the "national interests," the next session will be on Sunday instead of Aug. 12.
He warned that any delay in forming a new government "will jeopardize Iraq's security and democracy and will increase the suffering of Iraqis." He also called on all political rivals to "shoulder their responsibilities and set aside their differences to fight terrorism to put Iraq back on democracy path."
Al-Hafidh's statement made official what he had said late Monday was a "preliminary agreement" among political leaders to skip the long break and move the next session up to Sunday.
Lawmakers are under pressure to quickly form a new government that can unite the country and roll back the insurgents. The legislature held its first session since April elections last week, but failed to agree on a new speaker, president and prime minister.
Despite the decision to meet Sunday instead of next month, it still appears unlikely that political leaders will be able to bridge their differences in time to settle on names for the top leadership posts — particularly the prime minister, with incumbent Nouri al-Maliki resisting a campaign to replace him.
Al-Maliki's State of Law bloc won the largest share of seats in April's election, securing 92 out of parliament's 328 seats. But he is far short of the majority needed to govern, which means he needs allies to cobble together a coalition government.
His opponents — and many former allies — want him removed, accusing him of monopolizing power during his eight years in office and contributing to the current crisis by failing to promote reconciliation with Sunnis. But he has vowed he will not abandon his bid for a third consecutive term.