Iraq’s new parliament re-elects its president amid chaotic session | International

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The new Iraqi Parliament has re-elected Mohamed al Halbusi as its president this Sunday after a hectic session, answered by his rival. The convocation, in which the deputies who have come out of the elections last October have sworn their positions, is constitutionally the first step for the formation of a new Government. However, the divisions between the Shiite parties (which by demographic weight make up the majority) have exploded when the pro-Iranian bloc has tried to be recognized as the most numerous over the Sadrists who were the most voted in the elections.

In addition to Al Halbusi, whose Progress Party (Taqadum) won 37 seats in the legislature, Mahmud al Mashhadani, an Islamist elected on the list of the Alliance of Duty (Al Azm) who obtained 14. Despite Of the 200 votes obtained by the incumbent so far (well above the minimum of 165 required), his rival has declared the process illegal.

With 325 of the 329 MPs present, Al Mashhadani, 73, has taken over the old table to organize the election of the president and his two deputies. An unwritten pact establishes that the first is a Sunni Arab and the vice-presidents a Kurd and a Shiite Arab. But after the swearing in of the representatives and before the voting of the candidates began, a scuffle broke out at the same time that the broadcast of the private television channel Al Sharqiya was interrupted, the only one that was broadcasting the meeting live .

The so-called Coordination Framework, a bloc formed by the State of Law of former Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki (33 seats) and the pro-Iranian Victory Alliance (17), claimed to be registered as the majority bloc with 88 deputies. Apparently, since the elections they have managed to attract other already independent parties. His claim collides, however, with a decision of the Supreme Court that established that the majority bloc must register before the swearing-in of the deputies.

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The elections of last October gave a blow to the pro-Iranian groups, which have answered the scrutiny in all possible instances. The Sadrist Movement, led by the Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr, was the most voted group with 73 seats (19 more than in previous elections), but again insufficient to form a government alone. Since then, and especially as a result of the Supreme Court confirming the results, their Shiite rivals have tried to form a bloc that allows them to take the political initiative.

Faced with the threat of the Coordination Framework to leave the Chamber (and prevent the quorum for voting), Al Mashhadani has postponed the session to verify that the group did indeed have the support it claimed. The move has unleashed the anger of the Sadrists. In the tumult that has followed, Al Mashhadani has fainted and had to be transferred to the nearby Ibn Sina Hospital, where several leaders of the Coordination Framework have come to inquire about his condition. The images they have released showed him on a stretcher, but smiling.

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His post has been taken over by Khalid al Darraji, the third oldest MP, after the Sadrists rejected the second, Mohammad Enooz, representative for Najaf. The assembly has resumed just 50 minutes after the interruption, but with only 228 deputies. In the images that some of those present in the room have posted on social networks, numerous empty seats can be seen behind those occupied by the Sadrists, recognizable by the white shrouds they wear on their shoulders.

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The Coordination Framework appears to have refused to recognize Al Darraji’s procedures. And Al Mashhadani has seconded that complaint by declaring voting illegal due to his absence. However, the deputies have continued with the election of the two deputies.

Now, Parliament has 30 days to appoint the country’s new president, an honorary position reserved for the Kurdish minority. The head of state has 15 days to entrust the formation of the government to the majority bloc. From there, the prime minister-designate, a Shiite, has another 30 days to present his Cabinet. Provided that the protests of the discontents do not block the procedure.

To form a government, the support of half plus one of the 329 seats in the Chamber is required. None of the five legislative elections held since the United States toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003 has given an absolute majority to a party or bloc, forcing coalitions to form.

The Shiites are not the only ones who are divided. In the Sunni camp, Taqadum and his rival, Al Azm, have been unable to agree on a single candidate for the presidency of Parliament, despite having agreed to form a coalition in the House. The two main Kurdish groups, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (PDK, 31 seats) and the Kurdistan Alliance (17 seats), which is headed by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (UPK), also disagree on who to entrust the head of state to.

The Hemicycle show

The differences between the elected deputies have been clearly evident in their attire. Members of the Sadrist movement, the largest group, came to Parliament in shrouds, a symbol of martyrdom that their predecessors used under Saddam Hussein to signal that they were not afraid of death. The white color made them especially visible. In an equally studied gesture, they all carried small Iraqi flags (red, white and black).

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For their part, the members of New Generation, the Kurdish party formed shortly before the 2018 generals, appeared dressed in traditional Kurdistan clothing. The members of Emtidad, a movement for political renewal that emerged from the 2019 protests, honored their origins and arrived at the legislative headquarters by tuk-tuk. The modest motorcycle taxi of Asian origin (rickshaw) became very popular in Tahrir Square, the center of the protest in Baghdad, where he served as an ambulance, distributed food or helped to move volunteers in the middle of the crowd.

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