Iraq's parliament at crossroads as vote set for new speaker

Iraq's parliament at crossroads as vote set for new speaker
As Iraq prepares for an extraordinary parliamentary session to elect a new speaker, the nation stands at a pivotal juncture with far-reaching implications.
3 min read
13 December, 2023
Iraq’s parliament is scheduled to hold an extraordinary session on Wednesday afternoon. [Getty]

Iraq's parliament is scheduled to hold an extraordinary session on Wednesday, 13 December, afternoon to elect a new speaker after the position has been vacant since last month. 

Iraq's top court on 14 November revoked the parliamentary membership of Iraq's parliament former speaker, Mohammed al-Halbousi, on charges of forgery.

Iraq's Council of Representatives announced an extraordinary session to elect a speaker for the council, which will be held on Wednesday at 2:00 PM Baghdad time. 

Several Iraqi politicians and observers have written on the X platform that the race will be between Iraq's former parliament speaker, Mahmoud Al-Mashhadani, and Iraqi Sunni politician Salem al-Issawi.

Al-Mashhadani, on 29 November, 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.

"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 Monday, 18 December. 

Al-Mashhadani and al-Issawi were nominated by the Resolve Alliance led by Iraqi Defense Minister Thabet al-Abbasi. 
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.

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

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

The federal court's decision followed a legal action initiated by Laith al-Dulaimi, another Sunni parliamentarian, who accused al-, 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.

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

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.