Speakership row increases chaos in Iraq parliament

Friday 08/04/2016
Political turmoil sidelines efforts to replace current cabinet

BAGHDAD - Iraqi parliament chief Salim al-Juburi delayed a planned session on Saturday citing security concerns, but some lawmakers said they would meet anyway to select his replacement.

That could result in two rival claimants to the speakership, further increasing chaos in parliament, which has already seen a vote to sack Juburi, a fistfight among MPs and a sit-in this week.

The political turmoil has sidelined Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's efforts to replace the current cabinet, a significant setback for the premier.

Both the United Nations and Washington have warned that the political wrangling could undermine Iraq's fight against the Islamic State jihadist group, which overran large areas in 2014 but has since lost significant ground.

Juburi insists the Thursday vote to remove him and his deputies was invalid because the session lacked a quorum of 165 MPs, but lawmakers who took part said that enough were in attendance.

Juburi called for a session to be held on Saturday, but his office then issued a statement saying that security and intelligence information indicated there was a risk to parliament, and delayed it.

Some MPs said that a session would be held under the chairmanship of Adnan al-Janabi, who was elected interim speaker at the Thursday session, to select permanent replacements for Juburi and his deputies.

"The session will be held today under Adnan al-Janabi" to present nominations "for the presidency of parliament," MP Abdulaziz al-Dhalimi said in a statement.

Fellow MP Maysoon al-Damaluji said that enough lawmakers were present to reach a quorum for the session.

Abadi has called for the current cabinet of party-affiliated ministers to be replaced by a government of technocrats, but has faced significant resistance from the powerful parties that rely on control of ministries for patronage and funds.

Those efforts have been put on hold by disputes over the new lineup and by the move to oust the speaker.