Iraq's President Barham Salih said on Tuesday he will run for a second four-year term in office, and called on his fellow politicians to vote for him in next week's parliamentary session.
Mr Salih is among 25 candidates who have been approved by parliament to stand for the largely ceremonial role. The legislative body is scheduled to meet on February 7 to vote for the republic's next president in an important step towards the formation of a new government after October's general election.
The president of the republic “should be a symbol for the unity of the country and its sovereignty, a guardian to its constitution and a president for all Iraqis … A president, not a subordinate,” Mr Salih said in a televised speech.
“I'm looking forward to assume the honour of the responsibility once again,” he said, listing his efforts since taking office in 2018 in leading initiatives to draft laws and tackling the challenges Iraq has been facing.
During his term, he “didn't allow the humiliation of the position under any circumstances and despite various difficulties and pressures,” he added.
His nomination has raised tension between the country’s two main Kurdish parties. The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan nominated Mr Salih, a decision which was rejected by its rival, the Kurdistan Democratic Party. The KDP instead nominated former foreign and finance minister Hoshyar Zebari for the post.
A long-standing agreement among the Kurds usually sees a PUK nominee installed as president, while the KDP is left to run Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region.
But the KDP is seeking more control after securing 31 seats in the 329-seat parliament in October's election, while the Kurdistan Alliance — led by the PUK — won only 17 seats.
Mr Salih has been among the long-standing members of Iraq’s political class over the past 18 years. He was also a leading figure in the Iraqi opposition before 2003.
He assumed a number of senior posts after the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. He served as deputy prime minister for two terms and as minister of planning, as well as prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government.
Electing the president is the second step stipulated by the constitution in forming a new government. In its first session on January 9, parliament elected the new speaker and his two deputies.
Once the president is elected, he will have 15 days to formally request 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.
An unofficial agreement among Iraq’s political parties means that the post of president is held by a member of the Kurdish community, while the prime minister is a Shiite and the speaker a Sunni. Other government posts are also divided among the political parties based on religious and ethnic backgrounds.