Stock Groups

Iraq parliament fails to elect new state president over lack of quorum -Breaking


© Reuters. FILEPHOTO: Muqtada Al Sadr is an Iraqi Shiite cleric. He speaks at a Najaf (Iraq), November 18, 2021 REUTERS/Alaa Almarjani

Ahmed Rasheed and Amina Itsmail

BAGHDAD, (Reuters) – Iraq’s parliament failed to elect a president on Saturday after Iran-backed groups boycotted it. This was a blow to the alliance of cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr who won the election but threatened to remove them all from politics.

Sadr had hoped that parliament would elect Rebar Ahmad, an experienced Kurdish intelligence officer and the current interior minister for Iraq’s autonome Kurdistan region.

Only 202 lawmakers out of 329 attended the session. This is far less than what the two-thirds majority required to select a new president.

“It’s a storm in the cup. This is good evidence that the party which claimed it had the majority has failed to attain it. “It is a terrible situation that’s getting worse,” said Farhad Alaaldin (chairman of the Iraq Advisory Council), a research institute.

Sadr’s victory would mean Tehran’s allies could be expelled from power, for the first time since years.

After the October general election, Sadr won the most votes, and his Shi’ite, pro Iran, rivals were hammered at the polls. This prolongs the political deadlock in Iraqi politics.

    The vote on the president was postponed to Wednesday. Until a new government forms, the current caretaker government shall continue to manage the country.

    Sadr, a Shi’ite cleric, has pledged to form a government that would exclude key Iranian allies that have long dominated the state, a red line for those parties and militias and the first time they would not have a cabinet place since 2003.

    The candidates put forward for president in the months since the election have been viewed by Iran-aligned groups as Western-leaning and a threat to their interests.

    An attempt to secure the post for Kurdish politician Hoshyar Zebari, a former foreign minister, failed when Iraq’s Supreme Court last month banned his candidacy of over alleged corruption charges that had resurfaced. Zebari denies all charges. He was supported by Sadr along with Sadr’s close allies.


    Under a power-sharing system designed to avoid sectarian conflict, Iraq’s president is a Kurd, its prime minister a Shi’ite and its parliament speaker a Sunni.

    Since the U.S.-led invasion of 2003 that toppled Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein, the selection of a president and prime minister after each election has been a long, slow process hampered by political deadlock.

    Iran-aligned groups have normally had their way, using their role in defeating Islamic State in 2017 to catapult commanders into parliamentary seats in an election the following year.

    Sadr opposes all foreign influence in Iraq, including by the United States and Iran. While he has been able to increase his political power, Sadr must also contend with Shi’ite counterparts.

    Sadr has vowed to push through what he calls a “national majority” government, a euphemism for one that excludes pro-Iran groups. These groups maintain control over state institutions and heavily-armed militias.

    Sadr’s Sadrist Bloc has joined forces with the Kurdish Democratic Party and a Sunni Muslim alliance in efforts to form a parliamentary majority.

    Most Iraqis view all groups involved in governing the country as corrupt. The Shi’ite-dominated political elite that emerged after 2003 has been a source of anger for many years.

    That anger burst into mass demonstrations in 2019, in which government security forces and Iran-aligned militiamen shot dead hundreds of demonstrators.

    Officials and analysts fear Sadr’s intensifying face-off with the Iran-aligned groups could descend into violence.