RFL/RE – Iraq’s parliament has elected Sunni lawmaker Muhammad al-Halbusi as its new speaker as the country moves closer to establishing a new government after months of tense negotiations.
Halbusi’s election on September 15 marked the start of a 90-day process designed to finalize a new government.
Halbusi was backed by the pro-Iranian bloc led by Hadi al-Ameri’s Conquest Alliance, a coalition of former paramilitary fighters.
Violent protests in recent weeks have broken out in the southern city of Basra, as demonstrators have raged against government corruption. Some have also complained about Iran’s influence in Iraq’s government and military affairs.
The Iraqi political future has been uncertain since inconclusive elections were held on May 12.
Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s political bloc, which includes communists, won 54 seats in the legislative elections, making it the largest grouping in Iraq’s 329-seat parliament.
Ameri’s bloc came in second with 47 seats, while Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi’s coalition came in third with 42 seats.
Halbusi at age 37 will be the youngest speaker of parliament in Iraq’s history.
In an effort to calm sectarian tensions and rivalries, the speaker of Iraq’s parliament is reserved for a Sunni member, while the prime minister is to be Shi’a and the president a Kurd.
Parliament must next elect a president and give the mandate to the leader of the largest bloc to form a government as prime minister.
Negotiations on which bloc will lead those activities are continuing.
Based on reporting by Reuters, AFP, and Al-Jazeera