MON 18 - 2 - 2019
Date: Oct 3, 2018
Source: The Daily Star
Iraq President Salih names Abdul Mahdi PM
BAGHDAD / SULAIMANIYAH: Iraq’s Parliament Tuesday elected as president Kurdish politician Barham Salih, who immediately named Adel Abdul Mahdi prime minister-designate, ending months of deadlock after an inconclusive national election in May.

Abdul Mahdi is an independent who previously served as vice president, oil minister and finance minister. He is not allied with either of the two Shiite-led blocs that each claim to have the most support after May’s elections, in which no party won an outright majority.

He was previously a member of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, which is a large Shiite party with close ties to Iran.

Abdul Mahdi now has 30 days to form a cabinet and present it to parliament for approval.

Under Iraq’s constitution, Salih had 15 days to invite the nominee of the largest parliamentary bloc to form a government but named Abdul Mahdi less than two hours after he himself was elected president.

Salih routed his main rival Fuad Hussein with 219 votes to 22, dealing a blow to Hussein’s main backer, former Kurdish regional president Masoud Barzani who was the architect of an ill-fated 2017 independence referendum.

“I promise to safeguard Iraq’s unity and safety,” Salih said as he was sworn in.

Iraq’s presidency is a largely ceremonial position but the vote is a key step toward forming a new government, which politicians have failed to do since an inconclusive national election in May.

“Today is a remarkable day for Iraq. Democracy won,” said lawmaker Rebwar Taha of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the party that nominated Salih.

Under a tacit accord between the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the PUK would hold the federal presidency and the KDP the post of Iraqi Kurdistan’s president.

But the Iraqi Kurdish presidency has been left vacant since KDP leader Masoud Barzani resigned at the end of his mandate following the September 2017 referendum that he championed.

The vote for an Iraqi president was scheduled for Monday before being postponed due to the lack of a quorum.

In a first round of polling Tuesday, neither Saleh nor Hussein won the two-thirds vote necessary to win outright, forcing a second round.

Saleh, a 58-year-old moderate, has served both as Iraqi deputy premier and Kurdish prime minister.He was part of an interim authority put in place by the United States following the 2003 invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein.

Saleh later became deputy prime minister under Nuri al-Maliki before returning to the Kurdish regional capital Irbil in 2009 to become head of the Kurdistan government.

His rival for the post of president was Hussein, a 72-year-old former chief of staff for Barzani and veteran of the opposition to Saddam.

Iraq’s Parliament has chosen a speaker but the post of prime minister has yet to be decided, more than four months after legislative elections.

Under Iraq’s constitution, Salih has 15 days to invite the nominee of the largest parliamentary bloc to form a government. The prime minister-designate would have 30 days to form a cabinet and present it to parliament for approval.

Since 2003, power has been shared among Iraq’s three largest ethnic-sectarian components. The premier has traditionally been a Shiite Arab, the speaker a Sunni Arab and the president a Kurd.

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