Supporters of Muqtada A -Sadr gather inside the Iraqi parliament in Baghdad, ahead of the country's presidential election, on Saturday. AFP
Only 202 lawmakers arrived to Iraq's parliament, falling short of the two-thirds quorum required for the 329-member legislature to conduct an electoral session to select the country's president. Saturday's vote could not be held as many lawmakers allied with Iran-backed parties did not attend. Another electoral session is scheduled for Wednesday.
Iraqi politicians have so far failed to agree on a compromise candidate for the presidency, exacerbating a political vacuum that also prevents the appointment of a prime minister. Political groups now have two options, lawmakers said: Continue negotiations until consensus is reached or dissolve parliament and hold federal elections again.
Lawmakers attend a session of the parliament in Baghdad. Reuters
"Now the political process is in trouble,” said Shiite lawmaker Muhammad Saadoun Al Sayhoud.
Only 58 lawmakers showed up to the first presidential vote in parliament in early February. That time, al-Sadr boycotted the session after Iraq's Supreme Court suspended the nomination of front-runner Hoshyar Zebari, his bloc's endorsed candidate. This time, their lawmakers arrived to parliament, draped in white shrouds that Muslims use to wrap their dead, in a sign of their willingness to die for the cleric.
Saturday's failure to achieve quorum reflects ongoing disagreements between Moqtada Al Sadr, who won the largest number of seats in the 2021 October federal election, and a coalition of Iran-backed Shiite parties that form the Coordination Framework over the nomination of candidates.
Al Sadr's win, with 73 seats, was a major upset to Iran-backed parties. But the powerful cleric's intention to form a government with Kurdish and Sunni allies while excluding the Iran-backed parties has proven difficult. Rebar Khalid, interior minister in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region, has been the choice candidate of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, Al Sadr's ally. Lawmakers belonging to their Kurdish rivals, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, were conspicuous no-shows to the session.
“It is a storm in a cup. Today is a good proof that the party that had claimed that it has the majority had failed to achieve it. It is a bad situation getting worse,” said Farhad Alaaldin, chairman of the Iraq Advisory Council, a policy research institute.
The current caretaker government will continue to run the country until a new government is formed.
It is not clear how the Al-Sadr blocking vacating the seats will facilitate the formation of a government. According to the election law, if a member vacates his or her seat in parliament, the person with the next high number of votes will get the seat.
Overnight, shelling targeted the high-security Green Zone that houses government buildings and diplomatic missions, a security source said, amid angry protests after Sadr's surprise announcement.
In a surprise move on Monday Iraq's powerful cleric, Moqtada Al Sadr announced that he is quitting politics. Moments after Sadr announced the decision, hundreds of his supporters stormed a government palace,
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