After a year of deadlock, Iraq has a new president

BAGHDAD | The Iraqi Parliament elected the Kurdish Abdel Latif Rachid president of the republic on Thursday, the first step to extricate the country from a serious political crisis, further illustrated by rocket attacks just before the vote.

• Read also: UN calls for ‘dialogue without preconditions’ in Iraq

A former minister, a 78-year-old hydraulic engineer versed in environmental issues, Mr. Rachid is a compromise candidate for a polarized country. He saw his candidacy resurface at the last minute, with pro-Iran factions dominating parliament seeking to speed up the political timetable to form a government.

The new president must also appoint a Prime Minister, Shiite according to tradition, who will be chosen by the main parliamentary bloc.

Since the October 2021 legislative elections, the country has experienced a total impasse, the barons of Iraqi politics having failed to agree on a new president, nor to appoint a Prime Minister, despite endless haggling.

Between the lines, the struggles for influence between the two Shiite poles vying for power show through: on the one hand the pro-Iran factions of the Coordination Framework, the first bloc in Parliament, on the other the unpredictable religious leader Moqtada Sadr.

Illustrating the tensions, nine Katyusha-type rockets fell on the Green Zone, the area housing the Parliament and other government institutions and embassies. A projectile fell near the Assembly. These shots were not claimed.

They injured 10, including six members of the security forces or guards ensuring the security of the deputies, according to an official. Four civilians were injured by a rocket that fell on a neighborhood bordering the Green Zone.

« Such attacks undermine democracy and trap Iraq in a perpetual cycle of violence, » said US Ambassador to Baghdad Alina L. Romanowski.

And four!

After three unsuccessful attempts this year, parliament finally elected Iraq’s president, a largely ceremonial post traditionally reserved for the large Kurdish minority.

At the end of a second round, the former Minister of Water Resources Abdel Latif Rachid, from the ranks of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), won with more than 160 votes against outgoing President Barham Saleh , who collected 99.

The presidency has been one of the stumbling blocks paralyzing political life. The post generally goes to the PUK, while the other major Kurdish party, the Democratic Party of Kurdistan (KDP) kept the upper hand in the affairs of autonomous Kurdistan (north).

The PDK had demanded the presidency in Baghdad. But he ultimately voted for Abdel Latif Rachid, senior party official Bangen Rekani told AFP.

“We accepted the compromise candidate, it is our contribution to break the deadlock,” he said.

In a multi-confessional and multi-ethnic Iraq, the majority Shiite community has dominated power since the American invasion that overthrew Saddam Hussein in 2003.

The country is now awaiting the appointment of a prime minister.

« The favorite is Mohamed Chia al-Soudani, » says political scientist Hamzeh Hadad, referring to the 52-year-old former minister, candidate for the Coordination Framework.

“Public Disappointment”

After the surprise resignation in June of the 73 deputies of the Sadrist Current, the Coalition Framework became the first bloc in parliament with 138 deputies, according to a coalition official Ahmed al-Assadi.

The alliance brings together ex-paramilitaries from Hashd al-Chaabi and ex-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Moqtada Sadr’s historic rival.

It remains to be seen what will be the reaction of Mr. Sadr, who has been demanding in recent months a dissolution of Parliament and early legislative elections.

He has demonstrated in recent weeks his ability to destabilize the political spectrum by mobilizing tens of thousands of demonstrators in the streets.

This summer, the candidacy of Mohamed Chia al-Soudani had set fire to the powder between the two camps. The showdown came to a head on August 29, when more than 30 Sadrist supporters were killed in clashes with the army and Hachd al-Shaabi forces, integrated with regular troops.


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