Baghdad: Conflict-ridden Iraq has now set a world record of becoming a country without a government for most days.
The previous record was held by the Netherlands which took 207 days to form a government in the year 1977. Iraqis have now spent 208 days with no new government.
On Friday, Iraq`s Shi`ite political blocs picked incumbent Nuri al-Maliki as its nominee for prime minister, ending months of wrangling that had stalled formation of a government.
The decision by the National Alliance, a merger of Maliki`s Shi`ite-led State of Law coalition and the Tehran-friendly Iraqi National Alliance (INA), marked a breakthrough in talks among Iraq`s political factions for a new government. A March 7 parliamentary election produced no clear winner.
While Maliki still faces hurdles before ensuring a second term, the announcement heightened prospects for another Shi`ite-dominated government more than seven years after the US-led invasion that ousted Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein.
While the nomination was an important step, it did not assure Maliki of returning to the job he won as a compromise candidate in 2006. He still faces opposition from the cross-sectarian Iraqiya bloc led by secularist former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, and dissent within his own alliance.
Some Shi`ite leaders said the nomination was agreed by two key blocs in the National Alliance, State of Law, which has 89 seats, and the Sadrist movement of anti-American Shi`ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, which has about 39, with smaller factions.
Winning support from the Sadrists was critical to Maliki`s nomination. They had been opposed to a second term for the premier, who sent government troops to crush Sadr`s Mehdi Army militia in 2008.
While Maliki`s nomination by the Shi`ite alliance was a breakthrough, he may yet face formidable opposition. The Shi`ite alliance, if it held together, would still be a handful of seats short of the 163 needed for a governing majority in parliament, meaning a deal with other blocs was still needed.
Allawi`s Iraqiya, which won 91 seats in the March vote, two more than Maliki`s State of Law, has said it will not participate in a Maliki government.
Joost Hiltermann, an analyst with International Crisis Group, said he did not expect to see a new government in Iraq before the end of the year.
Leading politicians have said the next government must include all of Iraq`s fractious political factions, including Iraqiya, which was heavily supported by minority Sunnis.
Allawi has warned that any attempt to exclude Iraqiya from the government could result in a return to sectarian violence.
Iraqiya lawmaker Osama al-Nujaifi said the Maliki announcement marked the end of the Shi`ite merger and gave his bloc a chance to join with dissenters from the alliance.
Military leaders say militants have tried to exploit the power vacuum caused by the drawn-out negotiations for a new government in a bid to disrupt Iraq`s nascent democracy.
Violence has dropped sharply in Iraq from the height of sectarian slaughter in 2006-07 but insurgents still launch attacks daily. Washington formally ended combat operations on August 31, putting Iraq`s security in the hands of its rebuilt army and police.
With Inputs from Agencies