Baghdad (The Hawk): In a surprising move regarded as an attempt to resolve months of political impasse, Speaker Mohammed al-office Halbussi's announced on Wednesday that Iraq's parliament would gather on Thursday to elect a new president.
From February 7 through March 30, Iraq attempted three attempts to elect a new leader, all of which failed.
More than a year after the last general election, Al-office Halbussi's said on Tuesday that "a single item on the agenda, the election of the President of the Republic," would be discussed during the upcoming parliamentary session.
On October 10, 2021, a general election was called for Iraq ahead of schedule in response to widespread public discontent with the country's endemic corruption, high unemployment, and crumbling infrastructure.
Though Muqtada al-Sadr, a populist Shia Muslim leader, took home the most votes, he fell short of the backing he needed to create a government.
The worst violence in Baghdad in years broke out after Al-Sadr withdrew his 73 parliamentarians from the assembly and announced in August that he would quit politics. His supporters attacked the government palace and battled Shia factions, many of which are supported by Iran and have paramilitary arms.
Initially, the religious leader had attempted to establish a parliamentary majority by aligning himself with Kurdish and Sunni Muslim parties, but ignoring the Shia factions backed by Iran.
Although the president's role is mostly ceremonial, the election of a new president is an important milestone since the president often asks the nominee of the largest parliamentary bloc to form a government.
The Iraqi president is Kurdish, the prime minister is Shia, and the speaker of parliament is Sunni, all in accordance with a power-sharing structure meant to prevent sectarian strife.
The semi-autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq has been unable to elect a president due to disagreements among the country's main Kurdish parties.
Since 2003, the PUK party has ruled as president of Kurdistan. The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), its main challenger and the party that won the most Kurdish votes, is sticking to its own candidate.
An elected official from the KDP stated that the party has not yet achieved a deal with the PUK.
Mahma Khalil said in an interview with Reuters that negotiations with the PUK are ongoing and that more time is required. No meeting should take place until we have settled this.
Senior PUK member Gayath al-Sorchi told Reuters that, "no agreement has been achieved at this point, and it appears [like a] tough issue."
The United Nations had pushed political parties to break the stalemate, warning that "Iraq is running out of time," prior to al-announcement. Halbussi's
Oil exports have been a boon for Iraq's economy this year, and the country's central bank now possesses a whopping $87 billion in foreign exchange reserves.
Mustafa al-Kadhimi, the caretaker prime minister, is not authorised to present a yearly state budget to parliament in his capacity as caretaker prime minister, therefore the funds stay locked up.
The United Nations has called the adoption of a budget by the end of the year "imperative."
(Inputs from Agencies)