Middle east

Al-Halbousi does not intend to return to the presidency of the Iraqi Parliament

Al-Halbousi makes an unannounced visit to Jordan to arrange a meeting of Sunni leaders to choose a single candidate for the presidency of the parliament under the sponsorship of regional countries

The president of the Taqaddom Party, Mohammed al-Halbousi, stated that he does not seek to return to the Iraqi parliament after being removed from his position as speaker of the Council of Representatives by a judicial decision, confirming, “I will not seek in any way to return to parliamentary work in this term,” in response to the decisions of the Court of Cassation, which opened the door to the possibility of his return to his position. Sources indicated that he is conducting regional discussions to support a single candidate amid fierce competition and disagreements that have delayed the selection of a speaker for months.

Al-Halbousi added, “Those who defend the repeated violations of the legislative authority must be certain that many wrong paths that weaken the state and its institutions and do not adhere to the principle of separation of powers will be stopped by the efforts of the well-intentioned and those keen on the country.”

In a first for Iraq, the Federal Court of Cassation issued a legal decision stating that one of the decisions of the Federal Supreme Court, the highest judicial authority in the country, is “not final,” thus opening the door for al-Halbousi to appeal his removal from the presidency of the parliament by the Supreme Court, a measure based on a “forgery” lawsuit filed by a deputy.

The statement published on the court’s official website mentioned that it “decided to terminate the membership of Mohammed Rikan al-Halbousi as speaker of the Council of Representatives as of the date of the judgment on November 14, 2023.” The court also took a similar decision against deputy Laith Mustafa Hamoud al-Dulaimi, who filed the lawsuit, according to the statement.

Legal experts consider that “what happened is significant and will not pass naturally,” as it opens the door to the possibility of canceling other decisions issued by the Federal Supreme Court, whose decisions are considered binding on all authorities.

Al-Halbousi‘s recent actions indicate other arrangements regarding the selection of the next speaker of the parliament. A responsible source in Anbar province revealed on Thursday that he made an unannounced visit to Jordan via Erbil airport to arrange a meeting of Sunni leaders to choose a single candidate for the parliament’s presidency, under the sponsorship of regional countries.

The source added that the visit came after the failure of a meeting of Sunni forces to formulate a unified position on the selection of a candidate agreed upon by all forces for the parliament’s presidency, noting that the visit also came after intensifying disagreements between al-Halbousi and the head of the Sovereignty Alliance, Khamis al-Khanjar, who has good relations with Jordan and Turkey. The ousted speaker of parliament has organized numerous political and tribal conferences supporting his party with the approval of the Jordanian government.

The parliament has not been able to choose a speaker for months, while it seems that the Coordination Framework Alliance wants to maintain its control over the council through Mandalawi until the new budget is passed.

During a session held two weeks ago, the council members were about to vote in favor of Salem al-Issawi before the session turned into a boxing ring between several deputies. Additionally, candidate Mahmoud al-Mashhadani demands the resumption of the session due to a “mistake in vote counting.”

The parliament was preparing to hold a third round to finalize the vote on its presidency between al-Mashhadani and al-Issawi before deputies Muthanna al-Samarrai and Haybat al-Halbousi were assaulted.

None of the candidates obtained the necessary votes for the position (165 votes), and al-Issawi was 7 votes away from victory.

Media leaks revealed that a meeting of the ruling coalition before the session to select the speaker of parliament developed a plan to “disperse the votes” and keep the position in Mandalawi’s hands.

In that session, Mohsen al-Mandalawi, acting president and leader in the Coordination Framework Alliance, conditioned holding another session on agreeing on a single candidate for the position, causing a debate on the legality of this demand.

After Mandalawi’s recent stance, a leaked message from a WhatsApp group written by the head of the Sovereignty Party, Khamis al-Khanjar, inflamed tensions between the two parties. In the message sent to the group “Anbar Province / Sovereignty Party,” al-Khanjar wrote, “It is clear that the main reason for blocking the election of the speaker of the Council of Representatives by the Sunnis is greed and usurpation of the position representing more than 15 million Iraqis.”

He added, “We need a strong media campaign and public positions from you as representatives of the Sunnis with tweets and statements demanding the Coordination Framework and Kurdish forces hold a session this week to elect the speaker of the council. We must forget Sunni disagreements and focus on Mandalawi and those who support him to exploit this position.”

In response, the “Al-Asas” Coalition led by Mandalawi denied the accusations against the acting speaker of the council and denied that he is clinging to the position. It stated that “the chaos (referring to the last parliamentary session) was orchestrated by a political leader who incited some of his followers against Mandalawi on social media,” without mentioning a name.

Deputy Muhammad Nouri, close to Mandalawi, stated that what is issued by Khamis al-Khanjar “is worthless and does not deserve a response,” referring to the recently leaked message.

Deputy Mahmoud al-Mashhadani demanded that the presidency of the parliament form an investigation committee regarding the session to select the speaker of the Council of Representatives, explaining his request by the need to verify the voting results after noticing a mistake in the vote counting. Atheel al-Nujaifi, a leader in the Al-Hasm Alliance, revealed that there are attempts by Sunni factions he described as “neutral” to find an understanding between the candidates for the position of speaker of parliament, but these efforts “fell on deaf ears.”

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