Iraqi parliament holds first session, elects speaker

Iraqi parliament holds first session, elects speaker
# 09 January 2022 22:20 (UTC +04:00)

Iraq's parliament held its first session on Sunday electing Sunni lawmaker Mohammed al-Halbousi as speaker, marking an important step towards establishing a new government three months after a national election, APA reports citing Reuters.

Following a brief delay, parliament resumed its meeting when a new temporary speaker presided over the session after Mahmoud al-Mashahadani, who, at 73 is the oldest member of parliament, was suddenly taken ill and taken to hospital.

Earlier, the speaker selection process was disrupted as competing political Shi'ite blocs each claimed to hold a parliamentary majority. After heated debates and shouting among lawmakers, the temporary leader of the assembly, Mahmoud al-Mashahadani, decided to adjourn the session.

Iran-backed Shi'ite political coalition Fatah and the State of Law coalition, which is led by former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, submitted a document to Mashhadani requesting their coalition to be the largest bloc in parliament.

Lawmaker from Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's party, which came first in October elections, have strongly objected the request, defending their position as the largest bloc.

“The debate between Shi’ite parties over which bloc is the largest in parliament has disrupted the session and forced a brief delay,” said Jamal Kojar, a Kurdish lawmaker.

The main winner of the Oct. 10 election was Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, a populist who has positioned himself as a staunch opponent of both Iran and the United States.

Sadr's bloc, already the biggest in the 329-seat parliament, will expand to 73 seats from 54. Its main rivals for years, the Fatah bloc of factions linked to pro-Tehran militia, meanwhile, saw its parliamentary representation collapse to just 17 seats from 48.

Parliament was due to elect two deputies for the speaker during its first meeting on Sunday.

Parliament also has 30 days from the first session to elect the country's new president, who will then ask the largest bloc in parliament to form a government.

Under Iraq’s governing system in place since the post-Saddam Hussein constitution was adopted in 2005, the prime minister is a member of the Shi’ite majority, the speaker a Sunni and the largely ceremonial president a Kurd.

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