Iraq's parliament elects Abdul Latif Rashid as president

For months, political rivals have been at loggerheads over who should be the next prime minister and president

Presidential candidate Abdul Lateef Rashid attends a parliamentary session to vote for a new head of state president in Baghdad, Iraq, October 13, 2022. Reuters
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Iraq’s Parliament elected former water resources minister Abdul Latif Rashid as the country’s new president on Thursday, in a crucial step towards ending a political deadlock that has lasted more than a year.

Mr Rashid was sworn in soon after the vote and immediately asked the prime ministerial nominee of the Iran-backed Co-ordination Framework, Mohammed Shia Al Sudani, to form the new government.

Mr Al Sudani now has 30 days to submit his cabinet line-up to Parliament for approval.

At least nine rockets were fired at Iraq’s Parliament building inside the heavily fortified Green Zone before the much-anticipated presidential vote, Iraq’s military said.

Caretaker Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi issued messages congratulating Mr Rashid and Mr Al Sudani, and calling on all political groups to give them their support.

He wished Mr Al Sudani "success in the task of forming the government, in order to achieve the aspirations of our honourable people".

The US State Department welcomed the announcement and encouraged Iraq's political leaders to "bear in mind the will of the Iraqi people" as they form a new government.

"The United States urges all parties to refrain from violence and to resolve differences amicably and peacefully through the political process," a statement read.

Mr Al Sudani has won three terms in Parliament since 2014.

He started his political career as a member of the Shiite Dawa Party and ran for election with the State of Law Coalition led by former prime minister Nouri Al Maliki.

Among other posts, he served as minister of human rights 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 member of the provincial council between 2004 and 2009, and provincial governor for a year.

The State of Law Coalition is one of the parties within the Co-ordination Framework, which controls nearly 40 seats.

For months, 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 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 parliamentary speaker must be a Sunni and the largely ceremonial post of president is reserved for Kurds.

Mr Rashid 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 to win. Incumbent president Barham Salih received 99 votes in both rounds.

Born in 1944 in the northern city of Sulaymaniyah, Mr Rashid 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 PhD in engineering from Manchester University.

He was water resources minister from September 2003 to December 2010.

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

Updated: October 14, 2022, 9:10 AM