Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi has indicated he may not seek a second term amid power struggles in the country, although observers say it was unclear if he was actually giving up any claim to power.
“I do not want a second term. I don’t cling to a second term. We will rotate power peacefully,” the U.S.-backed Abadi told reporters in Baghdad on September 14.
Abadi and powerful Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr announced in June that they had agreed on a political coalition in an effort to form a new government in the wake of inconclusive May elections.
Sadr's political bloc, which includes communists, won 54 seats in the legislative elections, making it the largest grouping in Iraq's 329-seat parliament. Abadi's bloc came in third with 42 seats.
Sadr has distanced himself from Abadi, a one-time ally. An alliance of pro-Iranian former paramilitary fighters led by Hadi al-Ameri -- which came in second in May -- has said it would work with Sadr to form a new government that excludes Abadi.
Political analyst Ihsan al-Ashaari told the AP that Abadi's statement does not necessarily mean he is no longer seeking to retain his post and that the eventual decision will be made by the legislature after intense negotiations.
Calls for Abadi and other government leaders to resign have intensified after an outbreak of deadly unrest in the southern port city of Basra, where at least 12 protesters were killed in antigovernment demonstrations.
"We demand the government apologize to the people and resign immediately," said Hassan al-Aquli, a spokesman for Sadr’s political list.