Iraq new parliament to meet, paving way for government

Baghdad (AFP) –


Iraq's parliament will meet next week for its first session since May elections to choose a speaker and begin the process of forming a government, the outgoing president said Monday.

The inaugural session of the 329-seat chamber would be chaired by its oldest member, President Fuad Massum said in a decree calling for the sitting to take place on September 3.

The meeting of parliament was delayed by allegations of fraud that prompted the supreme court to order a partial manual recount of the results of the May 12 election.

Nationalist Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr's alliance with communists held on to all of the 54 seats it won and remain the biggest bloc in the parliament.

The Conquest Alliance of pro-Iranian former paramilitary fighters came second with 48 seats, and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's bloc was third with 42.

Next Monday's session will be devoted to electing a new speaker, a post traditionally handed to a member of Iraq's Sunni Muslim community, and two deputy speakers.

Parliamentarians will then have 30 days to elect a new president for the country, a position that goes to a member of the Kurdish minority with at least two thirds of the vote.

Kurdish parties have yet to officially announce candidates for the top but largely symbolic post of president.

The new president will then have 15 days to task the largest bloc in parliament to form a new government.

Negotiations to form such a parliamentary coalition capable of forming a new government have yet to bear fruit, as many alliances were forged but were later dissolved.

But experts point to two blocs that appear ready to face off to form a new government.

One is led by Abadi who has struck coalition agreements with Sadr, Shiite cleric Ammar al-Hakim's Al-Hikma list (19 seats), and the Wataniya list of outgoing secular vice president Iyad Allawi (21 seats).

The other bloc is led by the Conquest Alliance which has formed an alliance with the list of former prime minister Nuri al-Maliki (26 seats).

Iraq's political system is designed to ensure that no one person or party can dominate in order to avoid any return of a dictatorship following the ouster of strongman Saddam Hussein.