Iraqi Parliament approves 25 candidates for presidency

Electing a president is second step stipulated by constitution in forming a government

Iraq's President Barham Salih, who took office in 2018, is in the running for another term. Reuters
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The Iraqi Parliament has approved a list of 25 candidates for the presidency.

The legislative body is scheduled to meet on February 7 to vote for the republic's next president, a largely ceremonial role, in an important step towards the formation of a new government after October's general election.

Under an unofficial agreement between Iraq’s political parties, the post of president is held by a member of the Kurdish community, while the prime minister is a Shiite and the Parliament speaker a Sunni. Other government posts are also divided among the political parties based on their religious and ethnic background.

Unlike before, the Kurds have failed to agree on a presidential nominee because of deep divisions between their two main parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.

A long-standing agreement among the Kurds stipulates that the president's post goes to the PUK while leaving the leadership of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region to the KDP.

However, that has changed as KDP swept the polls in Kurdistan, winning 31 seats in the 329-seat Parliament, while the Kurdistan Alliance led by the rival PUK won only 17 seats.

The PUK has nominated the current president, Barham Salih, for another four-year term, while KDP’s nominee is former foreign and finance minister Hoshyar Zebari.

Both are senior Kurdish politicians who have played a major role in Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. They were leading figures in the Iraqi opposition before the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam.

Mr Salih served as deputy prime minister for two terms and as minister of planning in 2005, as well as prime minister in the Kurdistan Regional Government.

While serving as finance minister in 2016, Mr Zebari faced a no-confidence vote in Parliament over corruption allegations and accusations of misuse of funds that led to his dismissal. He denied any wrongdoing.

Among the other presidential contenders are possible comprise candidates, most notably former water resources minister Abdul-Latif Jamal Rasheed and Rizgar Mohammed Amin, the chief judge in one of Saddam’s trials.

Once the president is elected, he will have 15 days to formally task the nominee of the biggest parliamentary bloc to form a government, according to the constitution.

The prime minister-designate will then have 30 days to submit his Cabinet to Parliament for approval.

The vote on October 10 was the fifth parliamentary poll since the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam.

Challenges to the result delayed the first session of Parliament until January 9, when the legislature elected its speaker and two deputies.

Updated: January 31, 2022, 2:59 PM
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