Iraq appoints new president and prime minister, ending year of political deadlock
Iraq’s parliament on Thursday elected Kurdish politician Abdul Latif Rashid as the country’s new president, ending a year-long political stalemate that had turned violent over the summer.
Rashid won 162 out of 269 votes, beating current President Barham Salim, who only won 99 votes, according to a statement from the Iraqi parliament.
Rashid appointed Mohammed Shia al-Sudani as prime minister, who now has a month to form a government.
Thursday’s vote marks the end of Iraq’s longest political stalemate since 2003, the year former leader Saddam Hussein was overthrown by US forces.
Politicians have struggled to form a government since elections in October 2021. This competition saw the party of Shia Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr emerge victorious, winning more than 70 seats and, with them, considerable influence in the creation of a government. Al-Sadr’s attempts to form a ruling coalition, however, failed in the face of opposition from rival blocs. Months of political paralysis followed.
In June, al-Sadr, a hugely popular cleric who has taken a stand against Iran and the United States, ordered his party to withdraw from parliament, stoking fears of a constitutional crisis.
When the government attempted to appoint a new prime minister the following month, hundreds of al-Sadr supporters stormed into Baghdad’s Green Zone, the country’s heavily fortified government and diplomatic district, on several occasions.
In August, al-Sadr said he was retiring from politics. His loyalists responded with a rampage through the streets of the capital in a show of force that left 21 dead and more than 250 injured. The Green Zone was once again occupied, although al-Sadr ordered his followers to return home 24 hours after his announcement.
Sporadic violence continued to afflict the Green Zone. Ahead of Thursday’s parliamentary session, nine rockets fell in and around the fortified area, injuring several people including a member of the Iraqi security forces.
Current Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi condemned the attacks, saying they were trying to obstruct the ongoing political process.
“While we support the completion of constitutional rights to end the political crisis, we affirm our directives to the leaders of the security services to ensure the full and necessary protection of parliament, and we categorically reject any attempt to obstruct the process. democratic,” al-Kadhimi said in a Twitter post.