The entire board of Iraq's electoral commission tendered its resignation on Tuesday in protest against political interference, casting doubt on a nationwide vote scheduled for next month.
The Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) said it had found itself caught between conflicting rulings from parliament and the judiciary regarding the exclusion of certain candidates from the election, due on April 30.
IHEC's sudden move further complicates the outlook for a vote already clouded by violence across the country where Sunni Islamist militants have regained momentum over the past year.
"The commission is subject to intense pressures resulting from the conflict between the legislative and judiciary powers," it said in a statement. "In order to get out of this vicious circle, the members of the electoral commission have taken the decision to present their resignation collectively."
The statement said the conflict stemmed from divergent interpretations of the electoral law, which includes a clause allowing for candidates "of ill repute" to be barred from taking part. Critics of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have accused him of using the law to eliminate his political rivals to help clear the way for his third term.
The statement said the resignations, tendered in order to preserve the commission's "independence and professionalism", were pending approval from the head of the IHEC.