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Foes of Iraq's Maliki cannot force confidence vote

11 June, 2012

BAGHDAD: Opponents of Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki failed to gather enough support for a no-confidence vote against the Shia leader, keeping the government in a slow-burning crisis over power-sharing among Sunni, Shia and Kurdish blocs.

A successful ballot would have been the most serious challenge to Maliki in his six years in office, potentially sinking the government and escalating sectarian tensions in a country still pulling back from years of war.

Iraq's President Jalal Talabani, a veteran Kurdish leader who has urged conciliation, said late on Saturday that Maliki's critics had failed to collect enough signatures from lawmakers to convince him to ask parliament for a vote of no confidence. Talabani had asked for the petition as proof Maliki's foes had support before he would send a letter to the legislature asking for a ballot. Under the constitution, more than half of Iraq's 325 lawmakers must vote against Maliki to force him out.

"Because there was no quorum, even though the letter's text was ready, it was not sent to parliament," Talabani's office said in a statement. It said opposition groups had sent 160 signatures but 11 were later withdrawn and another two suspended, leaving 147 signatures in support of a vote of no confidence - short of the majority needed if a ballot had gone before parliament. The office did not say why signatures were suspended.

Since the last US troops withdrew from Iraq in December, almost nine years after the invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein, OPEC member Iraq has been mired in political turmoil among the blocs in its fragile cross-sectarian government. Sunni and Kurdish are leading the campaign for a vote of no confidence, but Shia lawmakers allied to cleric Moqtada al-Sadr have recently joined them. They were meeting on Sunday to decide on their strategy against a leader they believe is becoming increasingly authoritarian. Maliki backers dismiss those charges, pointing to key Sunni and Kurdish-held posts in government.

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