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Iraq presidential vote postponed as political deadlock extends

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BAGHDAD: Iraqi parliament has indefinitely postponed a scheduled vote for the republic’s president after most major political blocs boycotted the session.

Only 58-members out of 329 lawmakers were present in the Iraqi parliament, which was less than the necessary two-thirds quorum needed to choose a new president for the mostly ceremonial post.

On Monday afternoon, with only a few dozen MPs in the chamber, an official speaking on condition of anonymity confirmed that “there will be no vote to elect the president.”

The assembly vote had been set for noon to elect the head of state, a post with a four-year mandate held by convention by a member of Iraq’s Kurdish minority, and currently occupied by Barham Salih.

But a series of boycott calls had made it highly unlikely the 329-seat parliament in Baghdad’s high-security Green Zone would be able to clinch the necessary two-thirds quorum.

The sweeping no-show deepens a political crisis in the war-scarred country which almost four months after a general election still has not chosen a new prime minister.

The turmoil comes after October polls were marred by record-low turnout, post-election threats and violence, and a delay of several months until final results were confirmed.

Intense negotiations among political groups since then have failed to form a majority parliamentary coalition to name a new prime minister to succeed Mustafa al Kadhimi.

The largest parliamentary bloc to emerge from the vote, led by Muqtada al Sadr and holding 73 seats, became the first to announce a boycott on Saturday.

It was followed on Sunday, by the 51-member Sovereignty Coalition and the 31-seat Kurdish party, the KDP, which announced it would stay away to “continue consultations and dialogue between political blocs”.

Another key bloc, the Cooperation Framework grouping several Shia parties, also said the session should not take place, citing the recent political turmoil.

The process toward a presidential vote had been further thrown into disarray when Iraq’s Supreme Court on Sunday, suspended the candidacy of Salih’s key challenger, Hoshyar Zebari, with corruption charges.

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