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Iraq’s parliament set to convene Thursday to elect ‘President of the Republic’ a year after elections

Iraqi lawmakers attend a session of the Iraqi Parliament in Baghdad, Iraq, on March 26, 2022. (Photo by Reuters)

Iraqi Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi has announced that the legislative body is scheduled to convene on Thursday to elect a new president in an effort to end a months-long political crisis in the Arab country in the absence of a functional government.

“House of Representatives Speaker Muhammad al-Halbousi set a session on Thursday, October 13, with a single item on the agenda, which is to elect the President of the Republic,” Halbousi’s media office was quoted by Iraq's al-Sumaria television network as saying in a statement on Tuesday.

The surprise announcement came more than a year after the last general election in Iraq on October 10, 2021, which was triggered by a wave of mass protests against the country’s economic crisis, rampant unemployment and decaying infrastructure.

The country has yet to form a new government since then, leaving caretaker Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi in charge.

Prominent Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s bloc emerged from elections in last October as the biggest parliamentary faction, but was still far short of a majority, causing the longest political vacuum in the country since the 2003 devastating invasion of the Arab country led by the United States.

In June, all 73 legislators of the bloc quit their seats in a move seen as an attempt to pressure political rivals into fast-tracking the formation of a government.

Iraqi supporters of the Shia cleric stormed the government palace inside the Green Zone in August after their leader announced his resignation from politics.

Iraq’s incumbent President Barham Saleh urged at the time “new, early elections in accordance with a national consensus,” saying the vote could provide “an exit from the stifling crisis.”

The president, under an Iraqi political tradition, is chosen by the ruling Kurdish parties and the candidate must be of Kurdish origin.

The Tuesday’s announcement by the Iraqi Parliament speaker came a day after he led a delegation to meet Masoud Barzani, the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), as rival factions in parliament have been vying for influence and the right to select a new president and government.

Reports said the delegation included Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, the Coordination Framework Alliance’s nominee for the post, and Falih al-Fayyadh, Chairman of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), also known as Hashd al-Sha'abi.

Halbousi stopped short of providing any details about the meeting in Erbil, in Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, and whether an agreement had been struck among the Kurds to put forward a candidate.

Barzani has previously refused to support Salih as president and is reportedly insisting on changing him and picking a "compromise candidate" for the post.

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