Report: Iraq’s parliament elects a president as rockets fall on Baghdad

Report: Iraq’s parliament elects a president as rockets fall on Baghdad

Shafaq News / A new Iraqi president was elected Thursday by the country’s parliament, a full year after early parliamentary elections that have failed to put an end to persistent political gridlock and dysfunction.

Abdul Latif Rashid, a veteran Kurdish politician and former water minister, prevailed in the second round of voting over current president Barham Salih. He quickly appointed Muhammed al-Sudani as prime minister, giving him 30 days to form a government. Sudani is part of the largest Shiite bloc in parliament and is a close ally of former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki.

There was heightened security across Baghdad on Thursday, with security forces out in large numbers across the Green Zone, the heavily fortified area that houses embassies and government buildings, and major bridges were closed to traffic. But even as members of parliament voted, a barrage of rockets landed nearby, wounding several people and damaging cars in the parliament’s parking lot.

Iraq has been gripped by political crisis since last year amid a feud between the Sadrist movement, led by the prominent cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, and the “Coordination Framework, ” a coalition that includes Maliki’s party and other Shiite factions more closely aligned with Iran.

The dispute, which had prevented the election of a president or the formation of a government, escalated in July as supporters of both sides took to the streets and launched competing sit-ins in the center of Baghdad. Sadr then called for the dissolution of parliament and the holding of new legislative elections; when his demands were rebuffed, violence broke out in the capital and several other cities.

On Aug. 29, 30 people were killed in clashes between Sadr loyalists and their Shiite rivals in Baghdad, stirring memories of civil war and fears of further escalation. Sadr was eventually forced to call off his supporters, and experts say Thursday’s election leaves him a diminished figure.

“I think that what happened today is a fatal blow to Moqtada al-Sadr politically,” said Mohammed Jassim, an Iraqi political analyst based in Baghdad. “With the victory of the Coordination Framework over Moqtada al-Sadr, the road is completely paved for them to pass their [prime minister] candidate and form the government.”

Jassim said the triumph of the Coordination Framework was also a victory for Iran and a setback for American interests in the region. “The Iranian-backed Coordination Framework will do everything in their power to eliminate any U.S. presence in the country and place obstacles to any economic cooperation with the U.S., all in favor of Iran,” he said.

As news of the vote reached the streets of Baghdad, militia members allied with the Coordination Framework drove around the city, honking their horns and waving flags in celebration.

But few others in the capital were paying attention to the developments in parliament. Only 40 percent of Iraqis turned out to vote in the parliamentary elections last year, and many citizens have given up on the political process.

“It’s just the same system with different faces since 2003,” said taxi driver Jawad Ali, 43. “Usually, a person should be optimistic when there is a formation of new government, but for us nothing will change. Let’s just hope they won’t cut off the roads anymore.”

(The Washington Post)

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