Iraqi parliament elects new president, hopes for political stability after al-Sadr movement — Transcontinental Times

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IRAQ. Baghdad: Iraq’s parliament elected a new president, Kurdish politician Abdul Latif Rashid, who immediately invited Mohammed Shia al-Sudani to become prime minister and form a government, ending a year of political deadlock after a national election in October 2021.

Although the presidential role, traditionally held by a Kurd, is primarily ceremonial, the election of Rashid is the preliminary step towards the formation of a new government that will restore peace and prosperity throughout the country, which many politicians have failed to do so.

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Rashid, 78, served as Iraq’s water resources minister from 2003 to 2010. The UK-trained engineer prevailed against former President Barham Salih, who was seeking a second term.

Upon his election, he immediately invited al-Sudani, a candidate from the largest parliamentary bloc called the Coordination Framework, an alliance of Iran-aligned factions, to form a government.

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Sudani, 52, was previously Iraqi minister for human rights and minister for labor and social affairs.

Sudan has 30 days to form a cabinet and present it to parliament for approval.

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The United States hailed the election of a new leader as an end to the political turmoil and unrest the country has witnessed for a long time.

“The United States urges all parties to refrain from the use of violence and to resolve disputes amicably and peacefully through the political process,” officials said.

Thursday’s vote was the fourth attempt to elect a president this year. It took place shortly after nine rockets landed around the green zone of the Iraqi capital on Thursday, according to a military statement.

At least ten people, including members of the security forces, were injured in the attack, according to security and medical sources.

Thursday’s parliamentary session comes a year after an election in which populist Shia Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr was the biggest winner but failed to rally support and form a government.

Sadr withdrew his 73 lawmakers and announced his resignation from politics in August, easing the worst violence in Baghdad in years. His loyalists stormed a government palace and fought rival Shia groups, most backed by Iran, and armed divisions.

Sadr rules popularly in Iraq and has a notorious history as a rebel in society: fighting US forces, leaving cabinets and protesting against governments.

On Thursday, security personnel increased surveillance in the area, closed bridges and squares and erected walls on some bridges leading to the fortified green zone.

“Now Iranian-backed groups dominate parliament; they have friendly justice; they dominated the executive [authority]… “They will have to benefit from it, and one way to benefit from it is to do it gradually or suddenly and to try to marginalize or expel the pro-Sadrists from the state apparatuses”, said Hamdi Malik, a Washington Institute expert on Iraqi Shiite militias, adding that the approach will determine Sadr’s reaction.

To maintain proper representation and a power-sharing hierarchy, Iraq’s president is a Kurd, its prime minister a Shia, and its president a Sunni.

Meanwhile, the presidency was fiercely contested between the two main parties in Iraqi Kurdistan: the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which nominated Rashid, and its traditional rival, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which nominated Salih.

“The relationship between the PUK and the KDP is at an all-time low”, said Zmkan Ali Saleem, assistant professor of political science at Sulaimani University.

Saleem, however, predicted that the tension would not lead to a breakdown in the relationship and that things would eventually calm down, as Rashid is a member of the PUK and his wife is a powerful figure in the party.

Also read: Influential Iraqi Muslim cleric quits politics, sparking uncertainty

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