Iraq’s Sunni parties nominate Halbousi as candidate for parliament’s speaker

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — Iraq’s Sunni parties on Saturday agreed to nominate Mohammed al-Halbousi as their candidate for the speaker of parliament, ahead of the first parliamentary session set for Sunday.

Taqqadum alliance led by Halbousi and al-Azim alliance headed by Khamis al-Khanjar met in Baghdad to reach an agreement ahead of the first session of the Iraqi Council of Representatives. 

The two sides voted to select Khanjar to assume the presidency of their alliance, according to state news agency INA.

Halbousi was also nominated as their candidate for the position of parliament’s speaker, INA reported.

Halbousi served as the speaker of the Council of Representatives between 2018 and 2021.

Iraqi parties have begun negotiations on the formation of a new government after Iraq’s federal court ratified the results of the October parliamentary election and rejected appeals lodged by al-Fateh alliance led by Amiri.

Following the approval, Iraqi President Barham Salih issued a decree that convenes new parliament for January 9.

Lawmakers will elect a parliamentary speaker and two deputies in their first session. They will later elect a new president who will task the leader of the largest bloc to form a government as prime minister.

The Sadrist Movement, led by Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, won nearly a fifth of the seats – 73 out of the assembly’s total 329.

The Taqqadum Party, which draws support from minority Sunni Muslims, won 37 seats, according to the final results.

Former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law Alliance won 33 seats, the results showed. A distant second with 17 seats was the al-Fateh Alliance, the political arm of Hashid al-Shaabi.

Since the U.S.-led invasion that toppled minority Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein, Iraqi governments have been dominated by parties from the Shia majority, in coalitions that have included Kurdish parties.

Earlier on Saturday, Sadr insisted on the formation of a national majority government.

“Today, there is no place for sectarianism … But a national majority government in which Shias defend the rights of minorities, Sunnis and Kurds; the Kurds defend the rights of minorities, Sunnis and Shias; the Sunnis defend the rights of minorities, Shias and Kurds,” Sadr said in a tweet.

“Today, there is no place for corruption as all sides support reform. Today, there is no place for militias; all sides support the army, police and security forces,” he added.

“Today, we and the people will say: No, our decision is Iraqi Shia, Sunni, Kurdish, Turkmen, Christian, Faili, Shabak, Yazidi, [and] Sabean (an Iraqi national mosaic, neither eastern nor western).”

His remarks came after the Coordination Framework called on the Sadrist Movement to form the largest parliamentary bloc, ahead of the first session of the parliament set for Sunday.

The Coordination Framework includes State of Law Alliance, al-Fateh Alliance, Ata Movement, National Forces Alliance, Haquq Movement and Fadhila party.

The Coordination Framework and Sadrist Movement held several rounds of meeting in Najaf in the past weeks.

According to officials from both sides, the Sadrist Movement wanted a national majority government while the Coordination Framework preferred a consensus government.

“The only point of contention between al-Sadr and the coordination framework is that Sadr wants a majority government, but the Coordination Framework wants a consensus government,” Fazil al-Fatlawi, leader in al-Fateh Alliance, told Baghdad Today last week.

Last week, leader in the Coordination Framework Wail Rukabi said the group would form the largest parliamentary bloc if talks with Sadr failed.

“The Coordination Framework is the largest bloc with 90 seats and will form the government in the event that Sadr rejects a coalition with the group,” Baghdad Today quoted him as saying.

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