As uncertainty prevails, Salem Al-Issawi nominated for Iraqi parliament speaker post

As uncertainty prevails, Salem Al-Issawi nominated for Iraqi parliament speaker post
Iraq's highest court removed the speaker of Iraq's parliament in November, resulting in a deadlock among the main Sunni blocs over selecting a successor.
3 min read
12 March, 2024
After Mohammed al-Halbousi's removal as parliament speaker by Iraq's highest court in November, the main Sunni blocs in the Iraqi parliament are deadlocked, unable to agree on a successor. [Getty]

To expedite the selection of a new speaker for the Iraqi parliament, three major Sunni alliances have named Salem Al-Issawi as their nominee. However, the certainty of his election is not guaranteed, as the ousted speaker, Mohammed al-Halbousi, considers the position to be an entitlement for his party, adding complexity to the unfolding political dynamics.

The Iraqi parliament failed several times to elect a new speaker after Iraq's top court on 14 November ousted al-Halbousi following his conviction of forgery of official records related to the resignation letter of one of the MPs.

Since the US and UK-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the country 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 typically Kurdish.

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After extensive negotiations led by Muthanna al-Samarrai of the Resolve Alliance, Khamis al-Khanjar of the Sovereignty Alliance, and Thaabit al-Abbasi of the National Determination, last week a new coalition named The Sunni Forces Alliance in Iraq was officially declared. 

They called on the ruling Coordination Framework alliance to support their nominee for the speaker position. The new alliance emerged independently from Mohammed al-Halbousi's Taqaddum (progressive) party, which previously held the position of Speaker of Parliament and has 45 seats. The new alliance combined has 30 seats. 

The Coordination Framework is an alliance of Iran-backed Shiite blocs and political sides with a majority in the parliament. The legislature is expected to convene this week to elect al-Issawi, a lawmaker from Anbar province. 

Last week, Nouri al-Maliki, the State of Law Coalition leader within the Coordination Framework, confirmed his coalition's support for settling the selection of a new parliament speaker to succeed al-Halbousi.

"Electing al-Issawi is one of the scenarios, but the Taqaddum party insists that the position is its electoral entitlement as it has the most seats among the Sunnis. I think the parliament might not be able to elect a new speaker unless all the Sunnis agree on one candidate," Rebwar Abdul Rahman, a lawmaker in the Iraqi parliament from the New Generation opposition bloc, told The New Arab.

On Saturday, a lawmaker from the CF, speaking on condition of secrecy, told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, TNA's Arabic sister website, that the Coordination Framework has no objections to al-Issawi. However, he indicated that the CF informed the Sunni forces of the necessity of agreeing on a single candidate.

Abdulrahim al-Shammari, a Shia MP, told Rudaw on Sunday that the new alliance has decided to boycott all parliament sessions unless they vote on electing a new speaker. 

Iraqi observers have raised concerns about the intentions of the Coordination Framework (CF), suggesting that it may be strategically manoeuvring to delay the election of a new speaker, as this might not align with its interests. Muhsin al-Mandalawi, the first deputy speaker of the parliament and a member of the CF, is from their ranks. The Shia factions are keen on pushing through important legislation, such as the withdrawal of US and coalition forces from Iraq, before a new Sunni parliament speaker is elected, potentially obstructing their agenda.

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.