Iraq names new president and prime minister, ending a year of political deadlock

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Iraq’s parliament elected Kurdish politician Abdul Latif Rashid as the country’s new president on Thursday, ending a yearlong political stalemate that had turned violent over the summer.

Rashid won 162 out of 269 votes, beating out current President Barham Salim, who only obtained 99 votes, according to a statement from the Iraqi parliament.

Rashid named Mohammed Shia al-Sudani as prime minister, who now has one month to form a government.

The vote Thursday marks the end of the longest political deadlock Iraq has seen since 2003, the year former leader Saddam Hussein was overthrown by US forces.

Politicians have struggled to form a government since elections in October 2021. That contest saw Shia Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s party come out victorious, winning more than 70 seats and, with them, considerable influence in creating a government. Al-Sadr’s attempts at forming a ruling coalition, however, foundered amid opposition from rival blocs. Months of political paralysis followed.

Abdul Latif Rashid, the newly elected Iraqi president is seen Thursday at the Iraqi parliament in Baghdad, Iraq.

In June, al-Sadr, an immensely popular cleric who has positioned himself against both Iran and the United States, ordered his party to withdraw from parliament, stoking fears of a constitutional crisis.

When the government attempted to name a new prime minister the following month, hundreds of al-Sadr’s supporters broke into Baghdad’s Green Zone, the country’s heavily fortified government and diplomatic district, on multiple occasions.

In August, al-Sadr said he was retiring from politics. His loyalists responded with a rampage through the capital’s streets in a show of force that left 21 people dead and more than 250 injured. The Green Zone was again occupied, though al-Sadr ordered his supporters to go home 24 hours after his announcement.

Sporadic violence has continued to plague the Green Zone. Prior to Thursday’s parliamentary session, nine rockets landed in and around the fortified area, injuring several people including a member of the Iraqi security forces.

Current Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi condemned the attacks, saying they attempted to hinder the current political process.

“While we support the completion of the constitutional entitlements to end the political crisis, we affirm our directives to the leaders of the security services to ensure the full and necessary protection for the parliament, and we categorically reject any attempt to obstruct the democratic process,” al-Kadhimi said in a post on Twitter.

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