Hoshyar Zebari's nomination for Iraqi presidency suspended

Court's temporary bar adds to uncertainty over selection after Sadrist bloc announces boycott of vote

Former Iraqi finance minister Hoshyar Zebari, pictured in 2016, left, and President Barham Saleh are rival candidates for the next presidency. AFP
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Iraq’s Supreme Federal Court has suspended the nomination of prominent Kurdish politician and former minister Hoshyar Zebari for the post of president.

Mr Zebari, a nominee of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, is among 25 candidates approved by Parliament to stand for the largely ceremonial role.

According to a ruling seen by The National, Mr Zebari's suspension is temporary until the court reaches a decision on a case demanding his disqualification over corruption and mismanagement allegations.

Parliament is scheduled to meet on Monday to vote for the republic's next president — an important step towards the formation of a new government after October's general election.

But it is unclear whether the session will have a quorum after populist Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr, head of the biggest bloc in the 329-member Parliament with 73 seats, called on his politicians not to attend.

Iraq’s Kurds disagree over the choice of candidate for the presidency, which is reserved for their community.

Tension is running high between the two major Kurdish parties, the KDP and the rival Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, which is backing President Barham Salih for a second term.

A long-standing agreement among Kurds stipulates that the president's post goes to the PUK, while the leadership of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region is held by a KDP politician.

However, that changed after the KDP swept the polls in Kurdistan, winning 31 seats compared to 17 for the PUK.

A Sadrist MP said on Saturday that the bloc's boycott decision was “a message to the Kurds, in particular to the KDP, for them to agree on a single candidate".

As Iraq's foreign minister for more than a decade, Mr Zebari was among the most internationally prominent Iraqi Kurds after the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

While serving as finance minister in 2016, he 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.

Updated: February 06, 2022, 1:54 PM