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Iraqi parliament fails to elect new speaker amid political tensions

Iraqi parliament fails to elect new speaker amid political tensions
By Yagiz Efe Parmaksiz
May 19, 2024 1:05 AM

Iraq’s parliament fails to select a new speaker due to political infighting and disagreements among Sunni parties. Salem al-Issawi, the top contender, received 158 votes, while Mahmoud al-Mashhadani received 137

Iraq’s parliament failed to pick a new speaker on Saturday because none of the two leading contenders received the required majority amid a heated and often rowdy session.

The session was the latest in a string of failed attempts to replace the previous speaker of parliament, who was removed in November. Persistent political infighting and disagreements among important Sunni parties have so far thwarted every attempt.

With 311 legislators in attendance, Saturday’s vote came the closest to picking a new leader of the 329-member house. Salem al-Issawi, the top contender, received 158 votes, only seven votes shy of the needed majority. His primary opponent, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, received 137 votes.

Candidates must receive a minimum of 165 votes to win the job.

Following the inconclusive vote, several MPs did not return for the second round. According to local media, MPs engaged in a brief scuffle, injuring at least one. The parliament’s media office later stated that the session had ended.

Iraq’s political environment is characterized by complicated power dynamics among its many ethnic and religious groupings. A Kurd has traditionally held the primarily ceremonial post of president, a Shiite as prime minister, and a Sunni as speaker of parliament.

Despite this, a combination of pro-Iran Shiite parties presently controls parliament, reflecting the demographics of the country’s biggest religious community.

In this session, Issawi was supported by a coalition of three Sunni blocs, whereas Mashhadani, Iraq’s first speaker under the 2005 constitution, was backed by a sizable bloc led by former speaker Mohamed al-Halbussi. Halbussi, a prominent Sunni politician, was fired by Iraq’s top court in November after accusations of fabricating a resignation letter emerged.

Halbussi has been Iraq’s highest-ranking Sunni official since becoming speaker in 2018. The eventual replacement will have a brief term, with general elections set for 2025.

The inability to elect a new speaker shows Iraq’s continued political instability, as the country struggles to maintain a functional and inclusive administration.

Source: AFP

Last Updated:  Jun 3, 2024 5:02 PM