Rocket fire injures 10 in Iraq, parliament votes to elect president

Rocket fire kills 10 in Iraq, parliament votes to elect a president

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BAGHDAD | Rocket fire targeted the green zone of Baghdad on Thursday, injuring ten, as Parliament met to elect a new president of the republic and bring the country out of a deep political stalemate accompanied by violence.  

With 277 deputies out of 329 in the hemicycle, the quorum was reached and a first vote could take place, giving a head start to the 78-year-old former minister Abdel Latif Rachid – according to the vote count. But no candidate having obtained the 220 votes necessary to be elected in the first round, a second round will be organized between the two candidates who came first, reported an AFP correspondent in Parliament.

Illustrating tensions in a deeply polarized country, nine katyousha-type rockets fell on the Green Zone, housing the Parliament and other government institutions and embassies, according to a statement from the security forces.

Abdel Latif Rachid

A projectile fell near the Assembly and an AFP correspondent in Parliament heard several explosions. These shots were not claimed.

Ten people were injured, including six members of the security forces or guards providing security for the deputies, according to a security official. Four civilians were injured by a rocket that fell on a neighborhood bordering the Green Zone.

“Such attacks undermine democracy and trap Iraq in a perpetual cycle of violence,” lamented US Ambassador to Baghdad Alina L. Romanowski.

Since the legislative elections of October 10, 2021, the barons of politics failed to agree on a new president, nor to appoint a prime minister.

The UN mission in Iraq had deplored Monday that “the protracted crisis is creating 'instability', believing that dissent fueled 'public disillusionment'.

Between the lines, the power struggles between the two Shiite poles dominating the power show through: on the one hand the pro-Iran factions of the Coordination Framework, on the other the unpredictable religious leader Moqtada Sadr.

Three times this year, parliament has unsuccessfully attempted to elect a president, an honorary post traditionally reserved for the large Kurdish minority.

The post usually goes to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), while the Democratic Party of Kurdistan (KDP) keeps the upper hand in the affairs of autonomous Kurdistan. But the KDP demanded the presidency in Baghdad.

“Everything can change”

Outgoing President Barham Saleh, official representative of the PUK, is a candidate to his succession.

But another candidate resurfaced at the last minute, while the two Kurdish parties were unable to agree: former minister Abdel Latif Rachid – historic leader of the PUK — who ran on his own, at age 78.

The PDK (31 deputies) has withdrawn its candidate Rebar Ahmed, and will vote for Abdel Latif Rachid, a senior official of the Bangen Rekani party told AFP.

Once elected, the president will be able to designate a prime minister — chosen by the largest parliamentary coalition — who will begin difficult negotiations to form a government.

For the post of prime minister, “the favorite is Mohamed Chia al-Soudani” , says political scientist Hamzeh Hadad, referring to the 52-year-old former minister, candidate for the Coordination Framework.

“But in Iraqi politics everything can change until the last minute”.

In Iraq, since the American invasion which overthrew Saddam Hussein in 2003, the majority Shiite community has dominated power and its parties set the tone for political life.

“Bitter public disillusionment”

This summer, the candidacy of Mohamed Chia al-Soudani sparked tensions between the Coordinating Framework and the Sadrist Current — with Sadr supporters camping outside parliament for a month.

< p>But the Coordination Framework, which includes the ex-paramilitaries of Hashd al-Chaabi and former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a historic rival of Mr. Sadr, has never backed down.

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This coalition wants to form a government. Today it represents the main force in Parliament, after the unexpected withdrawal of the 73 deputies of the Sadrist Current.

Accustomed to blows, Moqtada Sadr first demands a dissolution of Parliament and anticipated legislative elections.

It remains to be seen what his reaction will now be.

He has demonstrated in recent weeks his ability to destabilize the political spectrum by mobilizing tens of thousands of demonstrators in the streets.

The showdown came to a head on August 29, when more than 30 Sadrist supporters were killed in clashes with the army and Hachd al-Shaabi forces, integrated with the troops regular.