Chaotic scenes as Iraq’s new parliament holds first session | Politics News

The new Iraqi parliament held its first session nearly three months after Iraqis voted in a general election whose results were challenged by powerful Iranian-backed factions.

In a reflection of the tensions, Sunday’s meeting was marred by chaos, with the oldest member and interim speaker of parliament, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, 73, being evacuated to hospital after falling ill.

The media office of the House of Representatives did not reveal more details about Al-Mashhadani’s condition, except to say that his blood pressure is being checked.

The selection process for the Speaker of the House of Representatives has been disrupted as the rival political blocs have claimed to have a parliamentary majority.

Mahmoud Abdel Wahed of Al Jazeera said that a temporary chair of the session had been appointed and the session had resumed.

“It was chaos here,” he said, speaking from the parliament’s media center.

“Just half an hour after the start of the opening session of the newly elected parliament, we heard a heated argument between members of parliament and then we heard that the interim parliament speaker, Mahmoud, was taken to the hospital,” Abdul Wahed said.

The chaotic meeting heralds what is likely to be a prolonged period of political debate between groups competing to choose a new president and prime minister.

Parliament was scheduled to elect a speaker and two deputies during its first meeting.

The custom is that the speaker of the Iraqi parliament is Sunni, the prime minister is a Shiite, and the president is a Kurd.

Parliament also has 30 days from the first session to elect the country’s new president, who will then ask the largest bloc in Parliament to form the government.

The dispute between the Shiites

Pro-Iranian groups suffered heavy losses in the early elections, which were introduced in response to months of street protests and calls for reforms.

The results sparked street protests by supporters of political parties, which performed poorly in the parliamentary elections,

The Iraqi Federal Court last month approved the results of the October elections, and confirmed the victory of Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr.

Al-Sadr’s bloc won 73 seats out of 329 deputies, according to the final results, and it has the upper hand in choosing the new prime minister. But he will have to manage tensions with rival Shiite groups who continue to reject election results and demand a say in the government formation process.

The Coalition for Progress (Progress), the second-placed coalition, won 37 seats.

The pro-Iranian factions allegedly fraudulent lost about two-thirds of their seats – a major blow.

Supporters of armed groups have pitched tents and protested around the capital’s so-called Green Zone, which houses the Iraqi government and many foreign diplomatic missions, for more than two months, while they appealed to Iraq’s Supreme Court.

Zaidoun al-Kinani, an Iraqi political analyst, said that the main obstacle to forming a government is the intra-Shia rift caused by the rift between al-Sadr and the Shiite coordination framework made up of pro-Iranian groups such as former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. The rule of law and the Fatah alliance and their allies.

Al-Kinani told Al-Jazeera that the Sadrist movement is trying to form a majority government this time.

“They believe they have the electoral confidence and power this time to form a majority government they lead – a government they will unilaterally dominate as the only Shiite political player in such a majority government with their Kurdish and Sunni partners.”

On the other hand, he added, “The Shiite coordination framework uses its influence inside and outside the government to ensure that they are included in a consensual government, despite their electoral defeat.”

He added, “The only clear agreement that we are witnessing now is the agreement within the Sunni bloc, which is mostly dominated by progress.”

Iraq’s new parliament held its inaugural session three months after legislative elections, with Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr likely to be the kingmaker for the next government. [Iraqi Prime Minister’s Press Office/AFP]

Witnesses said that deputies from al-Sadr’s bloc entered the parliament on Sunday in the capital, Baghdad, wearing white scarves symbolizing the shrouds of death, following the tradition of Muhammad al-Sadr, Muqtada’s late father.

Meanwhile, some independent lawmakers arrived at the council in tuk-tuks or auto rickshaws, from Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, the epicenter of anti-government protests that erupted in October 2019, according to witnesses.

Tuk-tuks were used to transport the wounded during violent demonstrations.

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