Political parties from Iraq’s main ruling factions announced on Wednesday their endorsement for the intelligence chief, Mustafa Al Kadhimi, to form a transitional government.
The move blocks the nomination of current Prime Minister-designate Adnan Al Zurfi, who has faced challenges in persuading Shiite blocs to vote in favour of his proposed cabinet.
"Following the Shiite blocs' consensus this week, the Iraqi Forces Alliance and the Kurdistan Regional Government announced their support for Al Kadhimi," an Iraqi MP told The National.
Huge pressure is now on President Barham Salih to withdraw the presidential decree nominating Mr Al Zurfi as Prime Minister-designate and to issue a new order in favour of Mr Al Kadhimi, said Sajad Jiyad, a political analyst in Baghdad.
"It would be legal but highly controversial," Mr Jiyad said.
Mr Salih nominated Mr Al Zurfi in March after larger groups failed to agree on a successor for departing prime minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, who resigned in November.
But Mr Al Zurfi has since struggled to gain the support of Iraq’s divided politicians.
He had 30 days to assemble a new cabinet and present it to Parliament with a deadline of April 16.
“Now they are waiting for either Al Zurfi to withdraw his nomination or for the constitutional period that was given to him to form a government to end,” the Iraqi MP said.
The Iraqi Forces Alliance, led by Parliamentary Speaker Mohammad Al Halbousi, expressed support for Mr Al Kadhimi.
"The person in charge of forming the Iraqi government must have the support of the political factions who are responsible for their nomination," the alliance said.
The President of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, Nechirvan Barzani, welcomed Mr Al Kadhimi's nomination and urged the country’s factions to end their differences.
“The presidency affirms its belief in the political stability of Iraq, which requires the formation of a new government and the support of all national parties,” Mr Barzani said.
He called on officials to support Mr Al Kadhimi.
"Our country is facing great challenges that require all political parties to overcome their differences and accelerate the mechanism for forming a federal government,” Mr Barzani said.
Anti-government protests demanding a new political system forced the resignation of Mr Abdul Mahdi.
His allies in Parliament then blocked the appointment of Mohammed Allawi, another prime minister-designate, in February.