Iraq’s parliament failed to elect a president on Saturday after Iran-backed groups boycotted the session, dealing a blow to an alliance led by cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, which won the election and threatened to remove them from power.
Sadr had hoped that parliament would elect Rebar Ahmed, a veteran Kurdish intelligence official who is currently the interior minister of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region.
However, only 202 members of parliament were present out of 329, which is less than the two-thirds quorum required to choose a new president for the mostly ceremonial post, and 126 lawmakers boycotted the session.
“It is a storm in a cup. Today is a good proof that the party that had claimed that it has the majority had failed to achieve it. It is a bad situation getting worse” said Farhad Alaaldin, chairman of the Iraq Advisory Council, a policy research institute.
A win for Sadr’s allies would threaten to exclude Tehran’s allies from power for the first time in years.
The delay prolongs a bitter deadlock in Iraqi politics months after an October general election from which Sadr emerged the biggest winner, with his Shi’ite, pro-Iran rivals receiving a hammering at the polls.
The vote on the president was postponed to Wednesday. The current caretaker government will continue to run the country until a new government is formed.
Sadr, a Shi’ite cleric, has pledged to form a government that would exclude key Iranian allies that have long dominated the state, a red line for those parties and militias and the first time they would not have a cabinet place since 2003.
The candidates put forward for president in the months since the election have been viewed by Iran-aligned groups as Western-leaning and a threat to their interests.
An attempt to secure the post for Kurdish politician Hoshyar Zebari, a former foreign minister, failed when Iraq’s Supreme Court last month banned his candidacy of over alleged corruption charges that had resurfaced. Zebari, who was backed by Sadr and allies of Sadr, denies the charges.