BAGHDAD - Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki called for early elections, in a statement released on Wednesday, after a series of political crises escalated into calls for his removal.
"When the other side refuses to sit at the table of dialogue and insists on the policy of provoking successive crises in a way that causes serious damage to the supreme interests of Iraqi people, the prime minister found himself forced to call for early elections," said the statement on Maliki's website.
The next parliamentary polls were to be held in 2014.
According to Article 64 of the Iraqi constitution, parliament "may be dissolved by an absolute majority of the number of its members," or "by the request of the prime minister with the consent of the president of the Republic."
President Jalal Talabani's position on the issue was not immediately clear.
After the last parliamentary polls in March 2010, a government was not formed until December, and some key cabinet posts including the defence and interior ministers remain vacant to this day.
Iraq has been hit by a series of intertwined political crises that began in mid-December with accusations by the secular, Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc that Maliki was concentrating power in his hands and have escalated into calls to unseat him.
An effort to persuade Talabani to call a no-confidence vote stalled earlier this month when he said that Maliki's opponents lacked the votes to oust him.
That decision meant the only way Maliki's opponents could press their drive for a no-confidence motion was by requesting he appear before parliament and then holding the vote.
Parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi said on June 21 that Maliki's opponents were to ask in the coming days for him to appear before the house in a renewed bid to oust him.
The crises have paralysed government, especially parliament, which has passed no significant legislation except for the budget, while other important measures such as a hydrocarbons law regulating Iraq's oil sector have been delayed.