BAGHDAD: Iraqi deputies agreed to meet on Sunday after delays to the formation of a new government outraged people tired of political polarization and fearful of a brutal Sunni militant offensive.
It was unclear what prompted the about-turn after lawmakers initially said they would postpone a crucial parliamentary session for a month, but the delay was met with widespread criticism both from their constituents and internationally.
The month-old crisis has seen a jihadist-led alliance overrun large swathes of northern and north-central Iraq, displacing hundreds of thousands and piling pressure on Nuri al-Maliki as he seeks a third term as prime minister.
With a farcical opening session having ended in disarray last week, and members of parliament (MPs) having failed to carry out their constitutional duty to elect a speaker, lawmakers announced they would next meet on August 12, which would have been more than three months after their election.
They later backed down, with the interim speaker scheduling their next meeting for July 13, but the initial decision nevertheless angered ordinary Iraqis.
“The postponement of the parliamentary session was a shock to Iraqis living amid a sea of blood and a lack of services and jobs,” said Essam al-Bayati, a professor at the University of Kirkuk.
A Baghdad grocer who gave his name as Abu Mussa said: “We have a crisis, and this postponement for calculations and deals between politicians is the biggest betrayal of the Iraqi people who went out to vote for them.”
Though the constitution calls for the speaker, president and premier to be chosen in a sequence over a maximum of 45 days, in practice political leaders normally agree the posts in a package.
In a de facto agreement that has emerged following previous elections, the speaker is a Sunni Arab, the premier a Shiite Arab, and the president a Kurd.
Despite telling Agence France-Presse in 2011 that he would not seek a third term, Maliki vowed last week he would not bow to mounting international and domestic pressure to step aside and allow a broader consensus.
Iraqi forces have largely regrouped after the debacle that saw soldiers abandon their positions as jihadist-led militants conquered second city Mosul and advanced to within 80 kilometers (50 miles) of Baghdad.