The session had a dramatic start as the oldest parliamentary Mahmoud Mashadani was supposed to lead the proceedings but collapsed. He was taken away and the second oldest MP took over. Then there was a scuffle between the rival Coordination Framework and Sadr’s Sairoon list. Things calmed down and Mohammed Halbusi was re-elected speaker, along with Sadrist Hakim al-Zamili as his first deputy, and Shakhwan Abdullah of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) the second deputy. This was a victory for Moqtada al-Sadr. He has an alliance with Halbusi and the KDP. While he doesn’t have a majority in parliament yet his ally remains speaker of parliament and the three lists proved they could vote together. Halbusi also won over his longtime rival Khamis al-Khanjar and his Azm Alliance uniting the Sunni vote behind him.
Afterward the Coordination Framework said the vote was illegal because Mashadani was not temporary speaker. The Framework also claimed it had the most MPs with 88. The Sadrists said they had 78 parliamentarians. While it’s not official yet Sairoon, Speaker Halbusi’s Taqadum and the KDP have 147 seats between them. They need 166 to have the majority and the right to name the next premier. The Coordination Framework on the other hand only has 63. It might have been able to convince some independents to join it. On the other hand, if the Kurds agree to a united front again the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan is likely to join Sadr. Khamis al-Khanjar’s Azm with 20 seats also has an alliance with Speaker Halbusi. That’s another path for Sairoon to get the MPs it needs. It’s still weeks before this dispute is resolved and a new government put into office.
Finally, the events of January 9 reveal a lot about how Iraqi politics operates. Khamis al-Khanjar for example tried to unseat Speaker Halbusi three times and failed. He decided to join him to gain government positions rather than continue to fight him. It’s more important to gain access to the state’s resources than be kept out of power. Hakim al-Zamili on the other hand, is an infamous Sadrists who was arrested by the Americans in 2007 for running death squads out of the Health Ministry and stealing money for the Mahdi Army while he was deputy minister. (1) He’s also suspected of killing the other Deputy Health Minister Ammar al-Saffar. The case against him was dismissed after Zamili threatened the judge and witnesses. Afterward he was elected to parliament showing the powerful are able to escape justice for heinous crimes.
1. CNN, “Deputy health minister arrested in U.S.-Iraq raid,” 2/8/07
CNN, “Deputy health minister arrested in U.S.-Iraq raid,” 2/8/07
Al Forat, “The Coordination Framework issues a statement regarding the repercussion of the first parliament session,” 1/9/22
Gordon, Michael and Rubin, Alissa, “Trial Near for Shiite Ex-Officials in Sunni Killings,” New York Times, 11/5/07
Gordon, Michael and Trainor, General Bernard, The Endgame, The Inside Story Of The Struggle For Iraq, From George W. Bush To Barack Obama, New York, Pantheon, 2012
Iraqi News Agency, “KDP nominates Shakhwan Abdullah for second deputy speaker of parliament,” 1/9/22
- “Shakhwan Abdullah as second deputy speaker of Parliament,” 1/9/22
- “Al-Zamili elected as a first deputy speaker parliament,” 1/9/22
Mahmoud, Sinan, “Sunni politician Mohammed Al Halbousi re-elected as Iraq Parliament Speaker,” The National, 1/9/22
Nas News, “Officially .. Announcing an alliance between Azm and Taqadum,” 1/8/22
NINA, “Al-Khanjar is the head of the Alliance of Azm and Progress .. Al-Halbousi is a candidate for the Presidency of Parliament,” 1/8/22
NRT, “Halbousi Elected Parliament Speaker For Second-Term,” 1/9/22