Iraq’s prime minister announces early elections, which will be held next year

BAGHDAD — Iraq’s prime minister announced Friday he was calling early elections, fulfilling a key promise at a time when the country faces deep challenges.

Mustafa al-Kadhimi said the new polls would be held next June, almost a year before the current parliamentary term was scheduled to end. It was unclear whether he would run for a second term.

Kadhimi took power in May, replacing a prime minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, who resigned amid a bloody crackdown against protesters demanding his ouster.

Two other political leaders who’d sought to become prime minister before Kadhimi had failed to win broad backing from Iraq’s divided political scene, and lawmakers from a crucial parliamentary bloc backed by Iran said they agreed to Kadhimi’s selection only if he would not run for reelection.

In the space of two months, Kadhimi has faced the daunting task of trying to restructure an Iraqi economy based almost entirely on oil revenue, which has plummeted due to the coronavirus pandemic. He has also clashed with Iran-backed militias as he seeks to prevent Iraq from becoming a battleground for clashes between the U.S. and Iran.

In a 13-minute televised speech, Kadhimi made a point of addressing the country’s youth protesters directly. “Your free will will make this an Iraq of hope, not an Iraq of chaos and conspiracies,” he said, urging them to organize themselves politically.  

Mustafa Salim contributed to this report.

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