Iraqi lawmakers elected veteran Kurdish politician Dr Latif Rashid as president on Thursday. Rashid’s election ended months of disputes in the country, hours after several Katyusha rockets struck the Iraqi capital Baghdad’s Green Zone, near the parliament.
Rashid replaced his rival, incumbent president Barham Salih, winning 162 votes against Salih’s 99.
The mostly ceremonial title of president is held by a Kurdish politician in Iraq, as per tradition. The Prime Ministry is reserved for a Shiite representative, and the Speaker of Parliament is from the Sunni community. Between 7 February and 30 March, there were three unsuccessful attempts to fill the presidential seat.
The elections marked the first time that Kurdish parties had put up competing candidates. The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) President Bafel Talabani pointed to Salih as the PUK’s only candidate ahead of the elections, but Rashid had also decided to run.
The deadlock was resolved when the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) withdrew from the running its own candidate, Rebar Ahmed, in favour of Rashid, citing “Kurdish interests” as the reason.
Rashid, 78, is a senior leader in the PUK. He studied engineering in Britain, and served as the Iraqi minister of water resources between 2003 and 2010.
The newly elected president had 15 days to task the nominee of the largest parliamentary bloc with forming the next government, but he announced his choice hours later, giving the job to Mohammed Shia’ al-Sudani. Al-Sudani now has 30 days to choose his ministers.
Thursday’s successful session came a year after parliamentary elections, held on 10 October 2021. Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr emerged as the strongest candidate but failed to form a government. Al-Sadr later withdrew from politics.
Before the MPs started the vote, at least nine rockets hit the Green Zone, targeting the parliament, Roj News reported. At least five people, including civilians and members of security forces, were injured.
The Iraqi parliament saw rockets fired into the Green Zone on 28 September as well, when a parliamentary session was convened for a vote on parliamentary speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi.
The Green Zone houses many government buildings and saw opposing sides set up protest camps in July, when supporters of al-Sadr stormed the parliament after al-Sudani was given the task for the first time.