BAGHDAD: Iraq’s parliament announced on Tuesday the reopening of registration for presidential candidates, a day after it called off a session to vote in a new head of state.
One of the two frontrunners, former longtime Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, was “temporarily” suspended by a court, citing years-old corruption accusations after a complaint was filed against him.
His eligibility for the post is being reviewed, with his party announcing it is sticking with his candidacy and that a verdict is expected within days.
Iraq’s political timeline for electing a head of state and forming a government, in the wake of last year’s general election, has been derailed amid political infighting.
Monday’s voting session was not held due to the lack of a quorum after several key political blocs and parties announced boycotts — against the backdrop of competing claims to a parliamentary majority.
The office of Parliament Speaker Mohamed Al-Halbussi announced on Tuesday the “reopening of registration for candidates for the post of president of the republic from Wednesday, February 9 and for a period of three days.”
But a date has yet to be announced for a new voting session in parliament.
Only 58 MPs attended Monday’s session — well below the quorum of two-thirds of the 329-seat chamber.
The largest political bloc led by firebrand Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr, as well as the allied Sovereignty Coalition led by Halbussi and the Kurdistan Democratic Party — from which Zebari hails — all announced boycotts ahead of the session.
Legal expert Ali Al-Tamimi denounced Tuesday’s announcement as “unconstitutional,” noting that the legal deadline set to elect a president “cannot be broken, except by a decision from the Federal Court or an amendment of the law.”
Zebari was tipped as one of two frontrunners, out of a total of 25, for the presidency. The other is incumbent President Barham Saleh of the KDP’s rival party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.
In response to his suspension, the head of the KDP’s parliamentary bloc, Vyan Sabri, told the state news agency INA on Tuesday: “Mr. Zebari is still our sole candidate.”
She denounced the “malicious complaint” leading to his suspension, affirming that his case “will be decided in the next two days.”