BAGHDAD - Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has launched an online appeal for allies to join his list of candidates for elections scheduled for May 12.
The initiative is a first for Iraq, ahead of its fourth parliamentary and provincial assembly elections since the ouster of dictator Saddam Hussein in a US-led 2003 invasion.
The direct appeal, which requires any prospective candidate to collect 500 signatures of support, bypasses Iraq's traditional route of selection by political parties, clans or tribes.
In public shows of disaffection with the political system, protests are staged weekly across Iraq against corruption, cronyism and the failure of authorities to provide basic services.
Abadi vows in his election manifesto to lead a list of candidates that rises above the country's sectarian divisions and is not standing under the banner of his Shiite party Dawa.
He says his online appeal was in response to "the popular demand for the selection of the most effective and best candidates", and that it would "enlarge public participation".
Successful candidates would need to be aged at least 30, clear of any criminal record and have completed secondary or higher education.
On Sunday, Abadi announced plans to stand for re-election at the head of a new list separate from key rival and Dawa party fellow member Nuri al-Maliki.
His "Victory Alliance" would be a "cross-sectarian" list aimed at overcoming divisions and battling inequalities in the country, the 65-year-old prime minister said.
Abadi declared victory in December in the more than three-year war to expel the Islamic State jihadist group from the vast areas of Iraq it seized in 2014.
Sunni Arab candidates, many of whose constituents were displaced by the battles, have appealed for the election date to be pushed back to December.