Iraqi president asks Mohammed Shia Al Sudani to form next government

PM nominee Al Sudani has won three terms in Parliament since 2014

Prime Minister-designate Mohammed Shia Al Sudani attends a parliamentary session to vote for a new president in Baghdad on Thursday. Reuters
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Iraq's new president Abdul Lateef Rasheed on Thursday asked long-serving politician Mohammed Shia Al Sudani to form the next government.

Mr Al Sudani, who was nominated for the post by the Iran-backed Co-ordination Framework, has 30 days to submit his Cabinet line-up to Iraq's Parliament for approval.

Parliament elected Mr Rashid, a Kurdish politician, as president earlier on Thursday in the first step towards the formation of a new government in Iraq after a year of political deadlock.

In his first statement, Mr Al Sudani thanked those who supported him and promised to submit his cabinet “as soon as possible”.

He also promised to form a “strong government" that was able to "build the country, to serve the citizens, to preserve security and stability and build balanced international relations”.

Mr Al Sudani started his political career as a member of the Shiite Dawa Party and then ran for election with the State of Law Coalition led by former prime minister Nouri Al Maliki. He has won three terms in parliament since 2014.

Among other posts, he served as human rights minister from 2010 to 2014 and minister of labour and social affairs from 2014 to 2018. He worked in an acting role for several ministries during Mr Al Maliki’s two terms in office from 2006 to 2014.

In 2021, he established his Al Foratyen Movement but kept close ties to Mr Al Maliki.

He belongs to a well-known tribe in the southern province of Maysan, where he served as a member of its provincial council between 2004 and 2009 when he became governor for a year.

The State of Law Coalition is one of the parties within the Co-ordination Framework which controls nearly 40 seats. Mr Al Maliki was removed from office in 2014, when ISIS took over one-third of the country, amid widespread allegations of corruption.

A handout photo made available by Iraqi Parliament Media Office shows New iraq's president Abdul Lateef Rasheed (2-R) hands over the letter of assignment to form a new government to the nominated Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al Sudani (C) at the Iraqi Parliament in Baghdad, Iraq on 13 October 2022. EPA

Caretaker prime minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi congratulated Mr Al Sudani on being asked to form the new Iraqi government.

“We call on all political forces to co-operate and integrate, wishing him success in the task of forming the government in order to achieve the aspirations of our honourable people,” Mr Al Kadhimi tweeted.

Prominent Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr once described Mr Al Sudani as a “shadow” of Mr Al Maliki, with whom he has had many years of rivalry.

Mr Al Maliki and the parties backing Mr Al Sudani are considered to be close to Iran, whose influence in Iraq Mr Al Sadr opposes.

Mr Al Sadr's political bloc emerged as the biggest in parliament following elections on October 10 last year, winning 73 of the 329 seats. However, he asked his MPs to resign in June after failing to win a consensus on the election of a new president to set off the process of forming a new government.

Iraq Parliament Speaker Mohamed Al Halbousi heads a session to elect a new president in Baghdad on Thursday. AFP

Iraq's political rivals have been at loggerheads over who should be the next prime minister and the country's next president — as well as how to share out government posts.

The prime minister's post is reserved for the majority Shiite community, according to an unofficial agreement between political parties after Saddam Hussein was toppled in the 2003 US-led invasion. Other government posts are divided among the political parties based on their religious and ethnic backgrounds.

The parliament speaker must be a Sunni and the largely ceremonial post of president is reserved for Kurds.

Mr Rasheed was elected with 162 votes in a second round of voting on Thursday.

He had received 156 votes in the first round, short of the two-thirds majority needed to win. Incumbent president Barham Salih received 99 votes in both rounds.

Born in 1944 in the northern city of Sulaymaniyah, Mr Rasheed started his political career in the 1960s when he joined the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).

He has a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from Liverpool University and a master's and doctorate in engineering from Manchester University.

He served as water resources minister from September 2003 to December 2010.

He was then appointed by the Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, the founder of PUK and his brother-in-law, as a senior adviser.

Updated: October 14, 2022, 4:39 AM
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