Iraqi parliament announces 25 candidates to run for president

The Iraqi Council of Representatives announced on Monday the names of 25 candidates for the presidential election scheduled for Feb. 7.

According to a statement by the parliament, the candidates include incumbent president Barham Salih, who is running for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), former Foreign Minister and Finance Minister Hoshyar Zebari, who is running for the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), and Rizgar Mohammed Amin, former Chief Judge of the Iraqi Special Tribunal that prosecuted former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

The list also includes names of non-Kurdish candidates, unlike the power-sharing system that prevailed in Iraq after 2003 stipulating that the presidency should be reserved for the Kurds, the speaker for the Sunnis, and the prime minister for the Shiites.

On Jan. 27, the Iraqi parliament decided to hold a new session on Feb. 7 to elect the country's president.

According to the Iraqi constitution, lawmakers should elect a new Iraqi president from the candidates by a two-thirds majority of its members, and the president will be limited to serve two four-year terms.

Once elected, the new president will ask the largest parliamentary alliance to name a prime minister-designate to form a government within 30 days.

On Oct. 10, 2021, Iraq held the fifth parliamentary election with Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr becoming the biggest winner with 73 out of 329 seats.

Iraqis on Monday continued to protest in Baghdad against the nomination of Hoshyar Zebari.

Dozens of protesters gathered outside the federal court in the Iraqi capital on Monday to protest against the nomination of Zebari.

In 2016, Iraqi parliament sacked Zebari from his post as finance minister over alleged corruptions and misuse of public funds. Zebari denied the accusations.

Zebari, who also served as Iraq’s foreign minister for more than a decade, lost a no-confidence vote by 158 to 77.

The Council of Representatives, which re-elected Mohammed al-Halbousi as its speaker, has set February 7 as a date to hold a session to elect a new president for the country.

Meanwhile leading figures in the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) cast question marks on the demonstrations protesting the nomination of Hoshyar Zebari for the presidency a few days ahead of the election session.

In a statement to Shafaq News Agency, Showan Mohammad Taha, a KDP leading figure, said, "those demonstrations are not popular. They are organized by political parties. Some of the Demonstrators serve in the presidential guards' brigades. We are aware that they received money to do what they are doing, and we know who paid them as well."

"The Tahrir square is the October martyrs square. Political parties shall keep their political disputes outside this square that played a vital role in changing the political situation."

For his part, Bengen Rekani, a representative of the KDP in the Kurdish delegation negotiating for the government formation, said, "more than 200 MPs will vote for Zebari according to the agreements with the KDP allies, the Sadrist movement, and the Sunni leading forces."

"Except for the political aspect, many of the Coordination Framework forces believe that Zebari has the political expertise and tolerance of different political parties to hold the position."

Iraqi parliament will hold the vote to determine who will succeed the incumbent President of the Republic, Barham Salih.

Endorsed by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Salih will be running for a second term in office.

However, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), who secured 31 seats in the recent parliamentary election-well ahead of the PUK's 18, has put forth the name of Hoshyar Zebari, a member of the KDP's Politburo and Iraq's former Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Talks between the PUK and KDP collapsed with the two leading Kurdish parties engaged in a strained war of words heated with reciprocal recriminations.

A few days after lifting their suspension following an order by Iraq's supreme court, the Parliament Speaker, Mohammad al-Halboosi, and his deputies convened last week to deliberate the procedures related to nominating and electing the next president.

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