Iraq's former parliament speaker Mahmoud Al-Mashhadani eyes return

Iraq's former parliament speaker Mahmoud Al-Mashhadani eyes return
Mahmoud Al-Mashhadani tells The New Arab he is the sole candidate for almost all the Sunni blocs in Iraq's parliament speaker election.
3 min read
29 November, 2023
Al-Mashhadani,74, had served as the speaker of the Iraqi Parliament from 2006 to 2008. [Getty]

Iraq's former parliament speaker, Mahmoud Al-Mashhadani, exclusively told The New Arab that he is the only candidate for virtually all Sunni blocs in the election for a new speaker inside the parliament.

Last Wednesday, 22 November, the Iraqi parliament postponed a vote to elect a new speaker following the recent dismissal of Mohammed al-Halbousi as per a decision by Iraq's Supreme Federal Court on forgery charges.

"Yes, I am the only candidate for the Sunni coalitions of Azm (Determination), the Resolve Alliance, and Al-Jamahir is Our Identity," Al-Mashhadani, a Sunni politician, exclusively told TNA. "I am also accepted from the other [Sunni] sides. We think we have an opportunity to win, and God willing, this result will come true in our favour."

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 Kurdish.

The election of a new speaker is crucial for Iraq, as the mandate of the country's election commission will expire soon as provincial elections are scheduled for 18 December. Unless the parliament elects a new speaker soon, it cannot renew the mandate of the election commission tasked to ratify the results of the elections. 

The parliament has yet to announce a date for its next session and elect a new speaker. 

The Leadership Coalition, co-led by al-Halbousi and prominent Sunni leader Khamees al-Khanjar, has previously authorised the two men to choose an alternative candidate for the position.

The Azm coalition is led by Muthanna al-Samarrai, the Resolve Alliance is led by Iraqi Defense Minister Thabet al-Abbasi, and the Al-Jamahir Party is led by Ahmed al-Jubouri.

The Resolve Alliance recently presented three candidates for the position: Talal al-Zawba'i, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, and Salem al-Issawi.

Al-Mashhadani,74, had served as the speaker of the Iraqi Parliament from 2006 to 2009. He was forced to resign after being accused of "rude behaviour" towards deputies.

On 9 January 2022, Mashhadani chaired the first session of the parliament as the most elderly lawmaker, but the session went into chaos after he fell ill and was evacuated to the hospital.

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Mashhadani enjoys strong relations with Iraq's powerful Shiite politician and ex-prime minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Leaders in the Resolve Alliance met with leaders of the Iran-backed Coordination Framework, a coalition of Shiite blocs and parties enjoying a majority in the parliament. The discussions aimed to secure votes for electing one of their candidates as parliament speaker.

Iraq's top court on 14 November revoked the parliamentary membership of Iraq's parliament speaker, Mohammed al-Halbousi, on charges of forgery, ending the powerful Sunni politician's tenure.

He is also accused of "normalisation with Israel" after he signed a contract with a US lobbying company.

The federal court's decision followed a legal action initiated by Laith al-Dulaimi, another Sunni parliamentarian, who accused Halbousi, also leader of the Taqadum [Progress] party, the largest Sunni bloc in parliament, of forging his resignation letter.

The court decided to terminate the membership in parliament for both al-Halbousi and al-Dulaimi. The top court also ruled out that the decision would be put into practice immediately, bound to all authorities, and not subject to appeal.

Al-Dulaimi, previously expelled from the party for non-compliance with its rules, alleged in his lawsuit that Halbousi falsified his parliamentary resignation in 2022.