Iraqi court suspends parliament speaker after controversial session

It is still unclear how long the suspension will last and it will put on hold other steps in forming the new government

Judge Jassim Mohammed Aboud, head of the Iraqi Federal Supreme Court, centre, and other judges attending a session in Baghdad in December 2021. EPA
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Iraq’s Supreme Federal Court temporarily suspended the parliament speaker and his two deputies on Thursday until a ruling is issued on a controversial first session.

On Sunday, the legislative body held its first session since the October 10 national elections.

It was chaired by the eldest member of the legislative body, Mahmoud Al Mashhadani, as acting speaker but was briefly adjourned as chaos erupted inside the hall.

Two rival Shiite groups claimed to be the largest bloc, with the right to form the government under terms stipulated by the constitution.

When Mr Al Mashhadani asked to check the names and the signatures on both lists with a committee, chaos erupted, leading to a heated discussion between him and some Shiite politicians who gathered around him.

He then appeared to faint and was taken out of the parliament building for treatment, disrupting the session. But proceedings later resumed with the second eldest member, Khalid Al Daraji, and the new Parliament Speaker Mohammed Al Halbousi and his two deputies were elected.

The suit, filed by two lawmakers, argues that the election process of the Speaker and two deputies violated the constitution and the parliament's bylaws as the body can't be resumed in the absence of the chairman, according to a copy of the ruling seen by The National.

It is still not known how long the suspension will last, but it will put on hold other steps in forming the new government, legal expert Tariq Harb told The National.

"The decision has frozen the Speaker and two deputies and therefore they have been stripped of their powers," Mr Harb said. "That means, all other steps will be waiting," he added.

The competing rivals are the Sadrist Bloc, led by Shiite populist cleric Moqtada Al Sadr, and the Co-ordination Framework, that includes Iran-backed Shiite militias and several other Shiite parties.

Mr Al Sadr’s political group won 73 seats in October's national elections, becoming the clear winner, but fell short of gaining the majority — 165 seats in the 329-seat parliament — needed to form the government.

Former prime minister Nouri Al Maliki, who heads the State of Law bloc, won 33 seats, and the Iran-backed Fatah Alliance won 17. Both are the backbone of the coordination Framework.

MPs from the Co-ordination Framework walked out in a protest against the election of Mr Al Halbousi and his deputies during Sunday's session and contested the outcomes at the court.

When Sunday's session resumed, Mr Al Halbousi opened nominations for the position of President.

The Parliament has 30 days from the first session to elect the country's new president, who will then ask the largest bloc to form a government within 15 days.

Updated: January 13, 2022, 2:16 PM