Iraqi lawmakers fail for third time to elect new president – Reuters News in France and abroad

  • Iraqi lawmakers have until April 6 to choose a new president.
  • On Wednesday, the vote was canceled after only 178 of 329 lawmakers were present in parliament, well below the two-thirds quorum required for the vote.
  • The post of president remained vacant six months after the October 2021 legislative elections.

Iraqi lawmakers failed Wednesday for the third time to elect a new national president for lack of a quorum, officials said, deepening the political crisis in the war-torn country.

Parliament’s continued failure to select a president after last year’s elections reflects a deep schism between Shia political groups.

“The assembly has adjourned its session until further notice,” said the parliament’s press service without giving a new date.

The Iraqi federal court has given lawmakers until April 6 to choose a new president. If this deadline is not met, said political scientist Hamza Haddad, “we could reach a point where new elections would be decided to break the impasse”.

A parliamentary source told AFP that only 178 MPs out of 329 were present in parliament on Wednesday, well below the two-thirds quorum required for the vote.

As in the two previous aborted votes, last Saturday and February 7, Wednesday’s session was boycotted by a major Shiite coalition bloc in parliament.

Six months after the October 2021 legislative elections, Iraq still does not have a new president or prime minister, keeping the country in a state of political paralysis.

Parliamentarians must first elect the head of state, by convention a member of the Kurdish minority, by a two-thirds majority. The president then appoints the head of government, a position now held by Mustafa al-Kadhemi.

Among the 40 presidential candidates, two are considered the favourites: incumbent President Barham Saleh, of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), and Rebar Ahmed, of the rival Democratic Party of Kurdistan (KDP).

On February 13, the Iraqi Supreme Court rejected the presidential candidacy of veteran KDP-backed politician Hoshyar Zebari after a complaint was filed against him on years-old and unaddressed corruption charges.

READ ALSO | Iraqi MPs will vote for the presidential election on March 26

Iraqi politics have been thrown into turmoil after October elections, which were marred by record turnout, post-vote threats and violence, and a months-long delay in confirming the results definitive.

The largest political bloc, led by the incendiary Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr, had backed Zebari for the presidency before shifting its support to Ahmed.

The failure of votes in parliament underscored the chasm in Iraqi politics between Sadr, the big winner of the general elections, and the powerful coordinating cadre, who called for a boycott.

The coordinating framework includes former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s party and the pro-Iranian Fatah Alliance – the political arm of the former Shia-led paramilitary group Hashed al-Shaabi.

In addition to Ahmed’s support for the presidency, Sadr intends to entrust the post of Prime Minister to his cousin and brother-in-law Jaafar Sadr, Iraq’s ambassador to Great Britain.

This perspective is unpleasant for the coordination framework.

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Iraqi lawmakers fail for third time to elect new president – Reuters News in France and abroad