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Crisis-hit Iraq makes latest attempt to elect president

Lawmakers in crisis-hit Iraq meet for their fourth attempt this year to elect a state president and break a year-long gridlock marred by deadly violence that has deepened economic woes. 

Parliament is due to convene on Thursday 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. 

Among the 30 candidates, top contenders include the incumbent, President Barham Saleh of the PUK, aged 61, and current KRG Interior Minister Rebar Ahmed of the KDP, aged 54. 

Abdel Latif Rashid, aged 78, a former water resources minister and ex-PUK leader running as an independent, has been suggested as a potential consensus candidate.

But the race remains open.

READ MORE: Iraq president encourages early elections to end political deadlock

Next step, new PM

Once elected, the president will appoint a prime minister – chosen by the largest coalition in parliament – who will then begin arduous negotiations to choose their cabinet.

Key runners for prime minister are the Coordination Framework’s candidate, former minister Mohammed Shia al Sudani, 52. 

The pro-Iran Coordination Framework draws together the Fatah alliance and lawmakers from the party of Sadr’s longtime foe, former prime minister Nuri al Maliki.

When Sudani was proposed in July, it sparked mass protests outraged Sadr supporters, who breached the Green Zone and stormed parliament.

Three failed attempts

Lawmakers in the past three attempts failed to elect a new head of state.

Iraq has yet to form a new government after general elections more than a year ago that were brought forward by a wave of mass protests against endemic corruption, rampant unemployment and decaying infrastructure.

This week, the United Nations mission said that “the protracted crisis is breeding further instability” in the war-scarred country, warning of “divisive politics, generating bitter public disillusion”.

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.

Government institutions built since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein remain fragile, and neighbouring Iran wields major influence.

Is firebrand Shia cleric Muqtada al Sadr truly calling it quits?

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