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Iraq parliament elects Sunni lawmaker as speaker

By REUTERS
September 16, 2018

ERBIL/SULAIMANIYA: Iraq´s parliament elected Sunni lawmaker Mohammed al-Halbousi as speaker on Saturday, marking an important step towards establishing a new government four months after an inconclusive national election.

Parliament had been due to elect a speaker and two deputies during its first meeting on Sept 3, but failed to do so as lawmakers were unable to determine which competing bloc had the most seats.

Halbousi´s election marks the start of a 90-day process outlined in the constitution, designed to eventually lead to a new government. Lawmakers must next elect a new president and task the leader of the largest bloc to form a government as prime minister.

But a dominant bloc has yet to emerge, against a backdrop of shifting political alliances.

Halbousi defeated former Defence Minister Khaled al-Obeidi, winning the position with 169 votes, according to Shi´ite lawmaker Husham al-Suhail. Iraq´s parliament contains 329 seats.

Announcing the vote, the temporary leader of the assembly said Halbousi, 37, had become the youngest speaker of parliament in Iraq´s history. Before running in May´s national election as a candidate on the Anbar Our Identity electoral list, Halbousi was the governor of Anbar province. He had previously served in Iraq´s parliament, from 2014 to 2017.Since Saddam Hussein was toppled in a 2003 US-led invasion, power has been shared among Iraq´s three largest ethnic-sectarian components.

The prime minister has traditionally been a Shi´ite Arab, the speaker of parliament a Sunni Arab and the president a Kurd.

Iraqis voted in May in their first parliamentary election since the defeat of Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate, but a contentious recount process delayed the announcement of final results until last month.

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