Iraq Gets New President and Prime Minister, Ending Political Deadlock
On Tuesday Oct. 2, the Council of Representatives (Iraq’s parliament) chose the Kurdish politician Barham Ahmad Salih to be Iraq’s new President.
Immediately after his election to the role as President, Barham Salih assigned Shi’a politician Adel Abdul Mahdi with the task of forming a new government, thereby making him the new Prime Minister of Iraq.
Salih’s and Abdul Mahdi’s appointments end months of political deadlock in Iraq, which persisted since the country’s previous general election took place in May. No bloc won a majority in the election, leading to parliamentary gridlock that had halted the formation of a new national government till Tuesday’s developments took place.
Iraq’s constitution gives Abdul Mahdi thirty days to nominate a cabinet for parliamentary approval.
According to a multi-party agreement that took place during the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, Kurds may nominate a candidate to be the country’s president, while the role of Prime Minister is reserved for Shi’a Arabs. The post of Speaker of the Parliament belongs to Sunni Arabs.
A later intra-Kurdish agreement stipulated that the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, a Kurdish political party, possesses the right to nominate the presidential candidate.
However, the Kurdistan Democratic Party also fielded its leader, Massoud Barzani, as a candidate to partake in the Presidential vote on Tuesday. Barzani lost to Salih by a margin of 22 votes to 219.
Given that Salih is seen as a political moderate whereas Barzani organized the Kurdistan Independence Referendum that took place last September, it may come as no surprise that the former defeated the latter so heavily in the presidential vote.
Sadr is a populist whose bloc won the most seats in May’s general election. He claims to want to reduce political corruption in Iraq. He does not appear to be close to either Iran or the U.S., two countries with competing interests in Iraq.
A pro-Iran bloc of politicians led by militia commander Hadi al-Amiri and former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki tried to prevent Abdul Mahdi’s nomination but withdrew its dissent after realizing it would not attain the number of seats required for a parliamentary majority. The bloc may therefore be rewarded with important ministries in the new Iraqi government.