New Iraqi Council of Representatives begins first session

The most elderly lawmaker will chair the session

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — Iraq’s new Council of Representatives began its first session on Sunday, with lawmakers to elect a speaker and its deputies.

The Council of Representatives was scheduled to hold a session at 11 a.m., but it was postponed to 4:00 p.m. due to disagreements between the Shia parties.

The elderly lawmaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani chaired the session in which lawmakers will swear in during the session.

The electoral commission informed Mashhadani that he is the most elderly member of the parliament and will chair the first session, in accordance with the constitution.

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 in the October parliamentary election – 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 released by the electoral commission.

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.

The Sunni parties of Taqqadum and al-Azim agreed on Saturday to re-nominate Mohammed al-Halbousi as their candidate for the position of the parliament’s speaker.

The Shia parties have yet to reach an agreement on the formation of the largest bloc.

Even though the Coordination Framework led Hadi al-Amiri and Nouri al-Maliki called on the Sadrist Movement to form the largest bloc with the group, Sadr on Saturday insisted on a “national majority government”.

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

Both sides have held several rounds of talks in the past weeks, but have yet to strike a deal on the new cabinet.

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

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.

A joint delegation from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) has been in Baghdad since Friday to discuss the formation of a new government with the Iraqi parties.

It separately met with the Sadrist Movement, the Coordination Framework and Sunni parties of Taqqadum and al-Azim,

Harem Kamal Agha, a member of the delegation, said there was understanding between the two Kurdish parties regarding the posts belonging to Kurds in the new cabinet.

“We have agreed to not become part of the issues between the Shia, but to find a solution,” he told Esta Media Network.

“The formation of a new government will delay because the Shia parties are still split,” he said.

“After the lawmakers swear in, the parliament’s session will remain open until an agreement is made on the posts.”

*This story was updated at 04:20 p.m. EBL time

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