Iraqi court rejects bid to annul outcomes of first parliamentary session

Populist Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr was the clear winner in October's elections

Iraqi judges attend a court session at the Supreme Judicial Council in Baghdad. AFP

Iraq’s Supreme Federal Court on Tuesday rejected a challenge to the outcomes of the first parliamentary session after October's elections, held earlier this month.

Members of Parliament challenged the election process of the chamber's speaker and his two deputies during the January 9 session, demanding a repetition of the process.

The session was led 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, a heated discussion began between him and some Shiite politicians who gathered around him.

He then appeared to faint and was taken out of the 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 leading the session.

A few days later, two MPs filed a suit, arguing that the election process for the speaker and his two deputies violated the constitution and the Parliament's bylaws as proceedings cannot be resumed in the absence of the chairman.

As a result, the court temporarily suspended the speaker and his deputies.

In Tuesday’s ruling, the court cancelled the suspension of the three men.

The Sadrist bloc, a political group sponsored by populist Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr, emerged as the clear winner in the October 10 election, with 73 seats in the 329-seat Parliament.

The Taqadum party, one of two main Sunni political groups, and led by former speaker Mohammed Al Halbousi, followed with 37 seats. Former prime minister Nouri Al Maliki’s State of Law bloc came third with 33 seats.

Mr Al Sadr’s main rival, the Iran-backed Fatah Alliance, won only 17 seats, down from 45 in 2018.

The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) won 31 seats, while the Kurdistan Alliance led by the rival Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) party won only 17 seats.

Bitter rivalry between political players has delayed the formation of a new government.

Mr Al Sadr wants to form a majority government, excluding State of Law. He envisages a government immune from any foreign intervention, mainly from Iran.

That has brought him into confrontation with his Shiite rivals, mainly Iran-backed militias who have been issuing threats against the Sunnis and Kurds who sided with Mr Al Sadr.

A few weeks ago, unknown militants attacked the offices of the two major Sunni parties in Baghdad and another attack was carried out against the office of deputy speaker Shakhwan Abdullah, who is affiliated with KDP, in the northern city of Kirkuk. All incidents resulted in minor damage to the buildings.

On Tuesday night, three missiles were fired on the town of Al Garma, the home town of Mr Al Halbousi, injuring two civilians including a 5-year-old, a security official said.

The three missiles landed on the street, with one hitting near Mr Al Halbousi's guesthouse, the official added.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Updated: January 25, 2022, 7:58 PM