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New President And PM-Designate Spark Unrest Concerns In Iraq

Iraq, OPEC’s second-largest producer, elected a new president on Thursday after months of political deadlock, protests and violent clashes among various militias both in Baghdad’s Green Zone and oil-rich Basra.

Iraqi lawmakers elected Kurdish politician Abdul Latif Rashid as the country’s new president following two rounds of voting in parliament against the backdrop of rocket attacks.

Rashid won 160 votes, defeating another Kurdish politician, Barham Saleh, who won 99 votes, according to Al Jazeera.

While parliament was in session, nine katyusha rockets hit Baghdad’s Green Zone, initially delaying the vote. No fatalities were reported, though several security personnel and civilians were injured, according to the Associated Press.

Rashid is Iraq’s former minister of water resources and has named 52-year-old Mohammed Shia al-Sudani as prime minister-designate to replace current prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi.

Al-Sudani’s task will be the formidable one of winning the backing of rival Shi’ite factions. According to an Agence France Presse report, al-Sudani already has the backing of influential pro-Iranian factions, which are rivals to powerful anti-Iranian Shi’ite cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr who can summon masses of protesters at will.

There are concerns the nomination of al-Sudani will result in a return to bloody violence that has plagued Iraq over the past several months. Iraq has unsuccessfully attempted to elect a new president three times this year. 

In last year’s parliamentary vote, al-Sadr won the most votes, but refused to form a coalition government. Since then, parliament has been stalemated, with al-Sadr leading his throngs of protesters in Baghdad against his rivals. In August, al-Sadr pulled all of his parliamentarians from the Iraqi assembly.

Last week, Baghdad’s violence spread to oil-rich Basra, where clashes between al-Sadr militias and those of his rivals in Basra erupted after rocket attacks on the presidential palace.

By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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