After two previous failed attempts, Iraq’s President Barham Salih has tapped a third candidate to replace Adil Abd Al-Mahdi as prime minister – this time, former governor of Najaf Adnan al-Zurufi. The designate now has 30 days to form a cabinet and obtain cabinet approval, a hurdle that Mr al-Zurufi’s predecessor as PM designate Muhammad Allawi failed to garner (MEES, 6 March).

But unlike Mr Salih’s previous nominees Mr Allawi and Mr al-Mahdi, Mr al-Zurufi has an established political base. Al-Zurufi, an American citizen and former mayor of Najaf, built his reputation as a hard-nosed populist who made his bones fighting militant groups including the Islamic State. His American citizenship lends to poor relations with Iran-linked Shia politicians, and he also has bad blood with Muqtada al-Sadr, one of the key players in Iraq’s parliament. Clearly, President Salih is trying a new approach. Whether his third candidate will be able to form a government is another matter, but with the country reeling from protests, any move towards political stability would be a relief. (CONTINUED - 174 WORDS)