In a surprise move, the Iraqi parliament elected Kurdish leader Abdul Latif Rashid as the new president, a year after the national elections and repeated political upheavals in the country. In the parliamentary vote held on Thursday, October 13, Rashid got 162 votes against the 99 votes received by his rival, incumbent President Barham Salih.
At least 269 of the 329 legislators in the Iraqi parliament attended the vote. According to the Iraqi constitution, attendance of a minimum of two-thirds of elected representatives is necessary for the election of the president to be valid.
Even at the time of the vote in the parliament, there were reports of rockets being fired inside the Green Zone in capital Baghdad, which left several members of the parliament and common people injured.
Immediately after Rashid won the vote, he nominated Mohammed Shia al-Sudani as the prime minister. Al-Sudani (52) will now have 30 days to form the new government. He will replace caretaker Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi who has been in power for over two years now. Al-Kadhimi was nominated to lead the country in May 2020 after protests in October 2019 forced the then elected government to resign.
Rashid (78), nominated by the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), will be the fourth president of Iraq since the US invasion in 2003. He was the minister of water resources for seven years after he was appointed to the post in the first administration following the US invasion in 2003.
The sudden announcement of the parliamentary vote was made a day earlier by speaker Mohammed al-Halbussi. His office conveyed that the session will have a single item of the president’s election on the agenda.
Before Thursday’s vote, the Iraqi parliament had failed to meet several times since February when the speaker was elected to hold the election for the new president due to a lack of quorum. The major political groups in the country were divided between two factions, one supporting Muqtada al-Sadr’s attempts to form a national majority government, while the other supported the Coordination Framework led by former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in its attempts to form a consensus government.
According to the Iraqi constitution, the election of the president is necessary to form a new government as it is the president who designates the prime minister.
Elections to the Iraqi parliament were held in October 2021, in which Muqtada al-Sadr’s Sairoon party won the largest number of seats. However, after failing to convince the majority of the parliament to join him to form a majority government, Sadr asked his party’s legislators to resign in June.
Al-Sudani’s nomination in July by the Coordination Framework became a major point of contention in Iraq as Sadr’s followers stormed the parliament building and organized a sit-in there for over a month demanding reforms and fresh elections. They alleged that al-Sudani is corrupt. The sit-in ultimately led to violence inside the Green Zone and other parts of the country, leading to the death of over 30 people in August.