Iraqi’s political deadlock forced lawmakers on Tuesday to postpone a long—awaited session of parliament, continuing the political impasse which has left Iraq without a government since the early—March parliamentary elections.

Prime Minister Nuri al—Maliki and his main rival, former premier Iyad Allawi, for months now have failed to resolve their differences over who should fill the three top posts in Iraq’s political system.

The now postponed legislative session was meant to have focused on appointing a prime minister, president and speaker of parliament.

It would have been only the second such meeting of lawmakers since the March 7 elections, in which no single party won an outright majority and negotiations have failed to form a coalition bloc.

Mohamed al—Mashkour, from the Shiite—led National Iraqi Alliance, told the German Press Agency dpa that there were not enough members present for a quorum and the session had to be delayed.

Deputy Haidar al—Gourani of the same party said no date had been set for a future meeting of the house.

Political tensions have followed the elections for the 325—member parliament, and the lawmakers’ first meeting in June lasted only 20 minutes.

No new laws have been passed and the legislative process has been completely halted in the four months since the election, which was seen as a test of the country’s stability.

Mr. Allawi’s Iraqiya List won 91 seats, as to 89 for Mr. al—Maliki’s State of Law grouping. The National Iraqi Alliance was third with 70 seats.

Both Mr. Allawi and Mr. al—Maliki are competing to head the future government. Mr. Allawi insists he should be in charge because his bloc won the highest number of seats.

But Mr. al—Maliki says he has the largest bloc in parliament with 159 deputies, after forming the National Alliance with Ammar al—Hakim’s Iraqi National List (INA).

That total, however, is still four seats short of a majority and as yet he has not managed to convince smaller parties to join his coalition.

Though parliamentary candidates in the Shiite—dominated National Alliance want the prime minister to come from their ranks, some are opposed to Mr. al—Maliki being head of government.

The INA’s Aziz Kadhim Ulwan said his party did not want Mr. al—Maliki “because he acted against the will of all his other partners” during his term as prime minister during the previous parliament.

Others, however, remain firmly behind the current head of cabinet.

“I support al—Maliki to head the next government, and the National Alliance which opposes this nomination should nominate a candidate and then there should voting to choose from the two candidates,” said Kamal al—Saadi from the premier’s State of Law coalition.

The next step in the political negotiations remained unclear, according to lawmakers in Baghdad.

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