Iraq parliament elects pro-Iran list candidate as speaker
BAGHDAD – Agence France-Press
The country has been in political paralysis since the May 12 ballot, but the election of a speaker is expected to solidify new parliamentary alliances.
Iraq has a proportional system aimed at preventing a slide back into dictatorship following the 2003 ouster of Saddam Hussein.
The lists elected during legislative polls must first form coalitions. The bloc with the most members appoints the prime minister and presides over the formation of the next government.
The pro-Iran bloc led by Hadi al-Ameri's Conquest Alliance -- a coalition of anti-jihadist veterans close to Tehran -- looked positioned to take the lead Saturday after the election of its candidate, Mohammed al-Halbusi.
During the vote, Halbusi pleaded for "real reforms", particularly after demonstrations last week in the southern oil-rich city of Basra turned deadly as protesters demanded improved public services and railed against corruption.
Parliamentary coalitions -- which bring together lists of Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds to form the largest group -- must agree on the selection of the three positions.
Halbusi ran against three other candidates, including Vice President Osama al-Nujaifi and former Defence Minister Khaled al-Obeidi.
Obeidi was backed by the list of outgoing Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who said Thursday he would not seek a second term as his political support crumbled over the violence in Basra.
Basra has been at the epicentre of protests that broke out in July in the southern province before spreading to other parts of the country.
Anger in Basra flared earlier this month over a growing health crisis, after more than 30,000 people were hospitalised by pollution in the city's water supply.
Protesters flooded the streets for five days, clashing with security forces and torching the provincial headquarters, the Iranian consulate and the offices of armed groups.
Twelve demonstrators were killed in the clashes, with rights groups accusing security forces of using excessive force.