Iraq PM to head new coalition in May vote

Baghdad (AFP) - Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced plans Sunday to run for re-election in May at the head of a new coalition separate from key rival and Dawa party co-member Nuri al-Maliki.

Abadi said in a statement he set up the "Victory Alliance" coalition as a "cross-sectarian" list aimed at overcoming divisions and battling inequalities in the country.

The coalition, the 65-year-old premier said, would strive to "protect the victory and the sacrifices" of the Iraqi people and to "fight against corruption... (and for) the unity of Iraq".

Abadi declared victory in December in the three-year war by Iraqi forces to expel the Islamic State jihadist group from the vast areas north and west of Baghdad it had seized in 2014.

Abadi had announced the previous month that Iraq's next parliamentary election would be held on May 15, but the date was later changed to May 12.

The capture by jihadists of nearly one third of Iraq came under the rule of Maliki, the current vice president and former prime minister who ceded power to Abadi in August that year.

Abadi and Maliki are both members of the Shiite Dawa party which has held the Iraqi premiership since 2006, three years after dictator Saddam Hussein was ousted in a US-led invasion.

Maliki is running in the parliamentary election at the head of his "State of Law" alliance, which won most of the votes in the previous polls of 2014.

The creation of separate lists seems to indicate deep personal divisions within the Dawa party.

But Maliki's spokesman, Abbas al-Mussawi, told AFP the party backs both lists.

"The fact that two list are being put forth does not mean a clash between two people, but a confrontation between visions, programmes and different alliances," Mussawi said.