Brawl breaks out in Iraqi parliament over parliament speaker role

Brawl breaks out in Iraqi parliament over parliament speaker role
Iraqi politicians lose their cool in vote over speaker. / bne IntelliNews
By bne Gulf bureau May 19, 2024

Tensions and physical altercations erupted inside the Iraqi Parliament late on May 18 due to disputes among political blocs over the election of a new parliamentary speaker, local media reported.

Security forces entered the parliament chamber to control the situation, resulting in injuries to several members of parliament. Among those injured was Heybat al-Halbousi, a member of the Taqaddum bloc, who was assaulted during the chaos over the next parliament speaker's role, which is controlled by Iraq's Sunni population. Key positions within Iraq's government structures are distributed according to an ethno-confessional principle: the country's president represents the Kurdish community, the prime minister is a Shia Muslim, and the parliament speaker is a Sunni Muslim.

Vian Sabri, the head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party bloc in the Iraqi Parliament, warned that further unrest could occur if the speaker's position is not resolved soon.

"The Shia blocs [close to Iran] are attempting to delay the session to decide on the new parliamentary speaker," Sabri said.

"If the position is not settled this evening, there is a likelihood of escalating tensions within the parliament," Sabri noted in an interview with regional Kurdistan 24.

She added: "If a new speaker is not elected, Mohsen al-Mandalawi will remain as the acting speaker of the House of Representatives, and according to the Federal Court's decisions, the current candidates will continue."

The Iraqi Parliament failed to elect a new speaker in the second round of voting, with a close contest between Members of Parliament Salem al-Issawi and Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, necessitating a decisive third round when all hell broke loose in the main chamber.

According to the parliament's media office, Salem al-Issawi received 158 votes, while Mahmoud al-Mashhadani garnered 137. Also, Amer Abdul-Jabbar received 3 votes, with 13 votes deemed invalid.

Acting Speaker Mohsen al-Mandalawi authorised a recess for the members. "After the break, a decision will be made to either proceed to a third round or adjourn the session until further notice," he announced.

In November 2023, the Federal Court of Iraq ruled to terminate the powers of then-speaker Mohammed al-Halbusi, elected chairman of the Council of Representatives in 2018 and re-elected in 2022.

The decision was made following the consideration of a lawsuit filed by a member of parliament, accusing the speaker of forgery.

Subsequently, the parliament's praesidium scheduled the election of a new head of the legislative body for May 18.