Iraqi lawmakers break political gridlock

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AFP) — Lawmakers in crisis-hit Iraq are set to meet Thursday for their fourth attempt this year to elect a new state president and break political gridlock that has sparked protests and deadly violence.

Over a year since its last general elections, Iraq is yet to form a new government to tackle the problems facing the oil-rich country plagued by unemployment, decaying infrastructure and corruption.

Parliament is due to convene from 11 a.m. in Baghdad’s Green Zone, the capital’s fortified government and diplomatic district that was recently the site of large protest camps set up by rival factions.

If members of parliament elect a new president, a post now held by Barham Saleh, the new head of state would be expected to quickly nominate a prime minister who would seek to form a government to replace caretaker premier Mustafa al-Kadhemi.

Security was tight on Thursday, with police checkpoints and two bridges in Baghdad closed, creating traffic jams.

Lawmakers made three previous attempts to elect a new head of state, in February and March, but failed to even reach the required two-thirds threshold — 220 out of 329 lawmakers — for a quorum.
Two small opposition parties, totalling 15 MPs, have said they will boycott the vote Thursday.

For the past year, Iraq has not only been without a new government, but also without a state budget, locking up billions in oil revenues and obstructing much-needed reforms and infrastructure projects.

Under Iraq’s power-sharing system, meant to avoid sectarian conflict, the state president by convention is Kurdish, its prime minister is a Shiite Muslim and the parliament speaker a Sunni.

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