Iraq's deadlocked parliament failed Sunday to overcome the deep divisions hampering the formation of a new government, making no progress on choosing new leaders.
The legislature is under pressure to quickly choose a new speaker of parliament, president and prime minister — the first steps toward a new government.
Nuri al-Maliki, whose State of Law coalition is seeking a third term but faces opposition from Sunnis and Kurds who say he has ruled for the Shi'ite majority at the expense of minority communities.
Al-Maliki's opponents, and even many of his former allies, accuse him of trying to monopolize power and alienating the Sunni community, and are pushing him to not seek a third consecutive term.
Prominent Sunni Arab lawmaker Dhafer al-Ani said this week that "partition of Iraq will be the natur result" if the Shiite bloc could not put forward another candidate other than Maliki.
"If they insist on Maliki as the prime minister, then we will withdraw from the government," he said.
"I believe that it would be hard for any Sunni politician to raise his hand and vote for Maliki as prime minister for a third term.
Interview with former Iranian political prisoner Mostafa Naderi