Iraqi parliament delays election of new speaker amid continued disputes

Iraqi parliament delays election of new speaker amid continued disputes
The Iraqi parliament has postponed the election of a new speaker, amid continued debate and competition between Sunni factions preventing the choosing of a consensus candidate.
3 min read
23 November, 2023
There has been no agreement among the Sunni political parties on the selection of a new parliament speaker [Getty]

The Iraqi parliament on Wednesday postponed a vote to elect a new speaker following the dismissal of Mohammed al-Halbousi last week on forgery charges. 

First Deputy Speaker Muhsin al-Mandalawi, who is from the pro-Iran Coordination Framework (CF) bloc, chaired the parliament session with 180 lawmakers attending.  

He postponed the voting item from the session’s agenda, the parliament’s media office said in a statement without elaborating.

While debates continue regarding the possibility of consensus on an alternative candidate, Iraqi Sunni parliamentarians have been accused of delaying the vote.

Iraq has an ethnic and sectarian power-sharing system where the speaker of parliament is usually a Sunni Arab, while the prime minister is a Shia Arab and the president is usually Kurdish.

Last week, Iraq's top court revoked the parliamentary membership of former speaker al-Halbousi on charges of forgery ending the powerful Sunni politician's tenure.

There has been no agreement among the Sunni political parties on the selection of a new parliament speaker so far. 

Multiple names are being considered, and all the main Sunni factions in parliament are vying for the position.

Salem al-Issawi and Shalan al-Karim are the two most prominent candidates being considered, an Iraqi lawmaker told The New Arab's Arabic-language sister site, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed on condition of anonymity. 

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Other sources told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that a political consensus needs to be reached among Sunni factions first, before Shia and Kurdish parties agree on the candidate

The Leadership Coalition, co-led by al-Halbousi and Khamees al-Khanjar, is authorised to choose an alternative candidate for the position, according to a statement issued by the Sunni coalition on Tuesday.

The sources indicated that al-Halbousi's opponents, including the Solution Party led by Jamal al-Karbouli and the Azm ("Determination") Party led by Muthanna al-Samarrai, along with smaller factions considered close to Iran-affiliated parties, seeking to win the presidency of the parliament.

The Resolve Alliance led by Iraqi Defence Minister Thabet al-Abbasi last Friday presented three candidates for the position, namely Talal al-Zawba'i, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, and Salem al-Issawi.

Leaders in the Resolve Alliance also held meetings with leaders of the Coordination Framework to secure votes for electing one of their candidates as speaker of the parliament. 

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Muthanna al-Samarrai, the sources said, has backing from the Coordination Framework, thus the chances of other Sunni factions winning the post are seen as weak. 

Massoud Barzani, the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), one of the ruling factions in Iraqi Kurdistan, on Wednesday emphasized that Sunni factions needed to choose a new parliament speaker quickly.

Barzani's spokesperson Khaleda Khalil said that Sunni Arabs had the right to choose the Iraqi parliament speaker. Any candidate elected to the position must have the unanimous approval of the majority of Sunni factions within the parliament, she said. 

However, Aqeel al-Mandalawi, an MP from Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law coalition, which is part of the pro-Iran Coordination Framework, suggested postponing electing a new speaker until after the legislative holiday starting early next year. 

He also stated that, constitutionally, the election of the parliament speaker should take place soon, however, the issue is subject to political agreements in advance. 

Hence it seems that the Coordination Framework is maneuvering to postpone electing a new speaker until after the upcoming provincial elections in Iraq scheduled for December 18.