Iraq MPs to meet for first time since inter-Shia bloodshed

Iraq’s parliament, at the center of a months-long political paralysis, is to convene Wednesday for the first time since deadly unrest in August and a sit-in protest by supporters of Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Parliament said in a brief statement on Monday that votes on the resignation of the assembly’s speaker, Mohammed al-Halbussi, and the appointment of a first deputy speaker would top the agenda.

The move is being seen by analysts as a vote of confidence in Halbussi.

The speaker “is not planning to resign but by allowing a potential vote of confidence to go ahead he is expecting his coalition partners to back him strongly”, Sajad Jiyad, a fellow at the Century International think-tank, told AFP.

He said the aim was to “end any further attempts to unseat him.

“This will cement his position as political leader of Iraq’s Sunnis and put pressure on” Shia and Kurdish parties to form a government, Jiyad added.

Iraq’s deeply divided political factions have failed to form a new government since inconclusive elections last October, and the last session of parliament dates back to July 23.

Later in July, al-Sadr’s supporters stormed the assembly and staged a month-long sit-in on its grounds.

Tensions boiled over into clashes on August 29 between the Sadrists, rival Iran-backed factions and the army in which more than 30 demonstrators were killed.

The violence followed months of disagreements between al-Sadr and his rivals within Iraq’s majority Shia camp, as the impasse has left the country without a new government, prime minister or president since the elections almost a year ago.

Iraq’s standoff pits al-Sadr against the Iran-backed Coordination Framework, which includes lawmakers from the party of his longtime foe, ex-prime minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Al-Sadr wants snap elections and the dissolution of parliament but the rival Shia bloc wants a new head of government appointed before any new polls are held.

Al-Sadr’s bloc emerged from the 2021 elections as the biggest in the legislature, with 73 seats, but far short of a majority.

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