Iraqi lawmakers have elected Abdul Latif Rashid as the Arab country’s new president, who immediately named a prime-minister, thus breaking a months-long political deadlock and paving the way for the formation of a new government.
At least 269 of the 329 legislators, more than the necessary two-thirds of the house, attended the voting session on Thursday afternoon to elect a new president for the mostly ceremonial post, in an effort to end a months-long political crisis in the Arab country in the absence of a functional government.
Rashid, a 78-year-old Kurdish politician, became the forth president of Iraq and replaced Barham Salih. The British-educated engineer was the Iraqi minister of water resources from 2003-2010.
The newly-elected president, who won more than 160 votes against 99 for the incumbent Salih immediately, named Mohammed Shia al-Sudani prime minister-designate to replace the current caretaker premier, Mustafa al-Kadhemi. Sudani, 52, is a former minister from the Coordination Framework.
Under a power-sharing system designed to avoid sectarian conflict, the president must be of Kurdish origin, the prime minister a Shia Muslim and the speaker of the parliament a Sunni Muslim.
The Iraqi parliament had already made three failed attempts this year, from February 7 to March 30, to pick a new head of state for the crisis-hit Arab country.
Iraq witnessed months of political deadlock after Influential Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s bloc emerged from last October elections 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.
The new Iraqi president has a bumpy road ahead to tackle corruption, unemployment and the disintegrating infrastructure bedeviling the country.
As lawmakers were heading to the parliament for the voting session earlier on Thursday, a barrage of nine Katyusha-style rockets rained down near Iraq's General Secretariat of the Council of Ministers and the House of Representatives.
Several Iraqi citizens and members of the security forces were injured in the attack, which was a new reminder of Iraq’s troubles.