Iraq MPs to vote for president on March 26

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The Iraqi parliament on Tuesday scheduled a March 26 session for deputies to hold a delayed vote on the country’s president.

Parliament also released a final list of 40 candidates for the post, a largely ceremonial role reserved for the Kurds.

Among the frontrunners are Barham Saleh, the incumbent and member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, and Rebar Ahmed of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, the PUK’s rival.

Lack of a quorum and legal issues have held up the contest, adding to war-scarred Iraq’s political uncertainty because the president has to name a prime minister backed by the largest bloc in parliament.

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On February 13, the supreme court ruled out a bid by veteran politician Hoshyar Zebari backed by the KDP to run, after a complaint filed against him over years-old corruption charges.

Iraqi politics were thrown further into turmoil following the October 2021 general elections, which were marred by a record-low turnout, post-election threats and violence, and a delay of several months until final results were confirmed.

Intense negotiations among political groups have since failed to form a majority parliamentary coalition to appoint a new prime minister to succeed Mustafa al-Kadhemi.

The largest political bloc led by firebrand Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr, had backed Zebari for the presidency.

Tensions rose Sunday with Iranian missile strikes on Erbil, capital of an autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq.

Tehran said the attack targeted Israeli sites, but Kurdish authorities denied any such presence.

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