The vote reflected rising anger among the opposition on the streets against the more and more authoritarian rule of Prime Minister al-Maliki.
The move also follows on street protests in Fallujah in which protesters were killed. A total of 170 MPs of the 242 present in parliament voted for the bill which would limit the president, parliamentary speaker, and premier to just two terms. If he runs in the April elections, it would be al-Maliki's third term.
While Maliki's coalition boycotted the vote and called it unconstitutional, the movement loyal to powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who was part of the coalition government, supported the motion.
The Sunni-backed Iraqiya block and most Kurdish MPs also supported the move. The Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlak, a member of Iraqiya, said: "We just want to limit the period the prime minister can serve... so that dictatorship will not start again." While the move no doubt targeted Maliki, it would also impact on the speaker of the parliament who is a member of Iraqiya, and the president, part of the Kurdish alliance. As of now, the Iraqi constitution does not set term limits for the posts.
Maliki's supporters claim that the courts will find the motion unconstitutional since it was proposed by parliament rather than the Iraqi cabinet. They insist that the constitution only allows the cabinet to propose legislation. Khaled al Assai, a member of Maliki's group said: "The federal court has told the parliament before that they can suggest laws, but they cannot draft laws," said Khaled al-Assadi, a member of Maliki's State of Law Alliance.
In the violence in Fallujah, the Shiite-led government's security forces opened fire on protesters killing seven. Fallujah is in the Sunni-dominated province of Anbar, a hot bed of revolt during the US presence in Iraq. There were huge numbers at the funerals of those killed on Saturday, as seen on the appended video.
Violence is increasing and Iraq is becoming more unstable due to al-Maliki's attempts to strengthen his grip on power. His rule has heightened tension between the Shiite majority and Sunni minority who were dominant under Saddam Hussein.
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