National News

Iraqi parliament breaks deadlock to elect speaker

Baghdad municipality workers clean the site of a car bomb explosion in Baghdad’s Allawi neighborhood, Iraq, Monday, July 14, 2014. Parked car bombs killed civilians in commercial areas of Baghdad on Monday, as government forces and allied Sunni tribal fighters tried to dislodge militants from a small town north of the capital, officials said. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban) -
Baghdad municipality workers clean the site of a car bomb explosion in Baghdad’s Allawi neighborhood, Iraq, Monday, July 14, 2014. Parked car bombs killed civilians in commercial areas of Baghdad on Monday, as government forces and allied Sunni tribal fighters tried to dislodge militants from a small town north of the capital, officials said. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)
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By Qassim Abdul-Zahra, The Associated Press

BAGHDAD - Iraqi lawmakers broke their deadlock Tuesday and elected a new speaker of parliament, taking the first formal step toward forming a new government that is widely seen as crucial to confronting the militants who have overrun much of the country.

Still, it was not clear whether lawmakers had reached a larger deal on the most contentious decision — the choice for prime minister. The incumbent, Nouri al-Maliki, has ruled the country since 2006 but is under intense pressure to step aside, but he is insisting he be picked for a third term.

After voting behind closed doors, the legislature tallied the results on a white board wheeled into the hall that showed Sunni lawmaker Salim al-Jubouri winning with 194 votes in the 328-seat parliament. A second candidate, Shorooq al-Abayachi, received 19 votes. There were 60 abstentions.

According to the constitution, parliament now has 30 days to elect a president, who will then have 15 days to ask the leader of the largest bloc in the legislature to form a government. Then a prime minister will be picked.

Under an informal agreement that took hold after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, the speaker's chair goes to a Sunni, the presidency to a Kurd and the prime minister's post to a Shiite.

The inability of al-Maliki's government to prevent the militant offensive over the past month has deeply shaken confidence, both at home and abroad, in his ability to hold Iraq together. His opponents and even many of his former allies accuse him of trying to monopolize power and alienating the Sunni community.

Al-Maliki has so far refused to withdraw his candidacy, and insists he has a mandate because his State of Law bloc's captured the most seats in April elections.

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