The newly elected president of Iraq, Abdul Latif Rashid, designated Mohammed al-Sudani this Thursday as the country’s prime minister, signaling the end of political deadlock in Iraq.
In a move that is hoped to end the longest political deadlock Iraq has seen since 2003, Lawmakers in Iraq elected Abdul Latif Rashid, a Kurdish politician from the country’s north and a member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) party, as Iraq’s next president this Thursday.
Rashid was chosen over incumbent President Barham Saleh as head of state after the two-round vote in parliament, winning more than 160 votes against 99 for Saleh.
The newly elected president named Mohammed Shia al-Sudani as prime minister hours after his election by the Iraqi parliament.
This means that al-Sudani now has the big responsibility of forming a government. In Iraq’s political system, the office of presidency is largely ceremonial and it is the prime minister who is the country’s head of government. Although the president has the authority to formally nominate the prime minister, who is then confirmed by the parliament. also under Iraq’s confessional political system, Iraq’s presidency is reserved for a Kurd, while the prime minister must be a Shia Muslim and the speaker of parliament must be a Sunni.
Who is Mohammed al-Sudani?
Born in Baghdad in 1970, Mohammed al-Sudani is a former provincial governor and human rights minister of Iraq in the Council of Ministers of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki from 2010 until October 2014. The 52-year-old Sudani was nominated for the role by the Iran-backed Shia Coordination Framework, which is now the largest parliamentary bloc in Iraq.
Al-Sudani has also held various other positions in local and central governments after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. After the invasion in 2004, he became mayor of the city of Amarah and then governor of his home province of Mason.
Later, he served in several ministries in the governments of Nouri al-Maliki and Haider al-Abadi, including the Minister of Labor and Social Affairs from 2014 to 2018. In 2020 after mass demonstrations over changes in Iraqi politics, al-Sudani resigned from the Dawa party.
Al-Sudani is now the leader of the political party Euphrates Movement, which secured three seats in parliament in last year’s election, and he later entered the Shia Coordination Framework – al-Sadr’s biggest rival bloc in parliament.
He was first nominated for the position of prime minister back on July 25, but supporters of al-Sadr raised an uproar against it and the news sparked the largest protests in the capital Baghdad since last year’s election. The Sadrists were the biggest winner of the Iraqi parliament in last year’s election but later they unanimously withdrew from the parliament due to its inability to form a government.
This led to widespread and violent protests in Iraq. Demonstrators that breached the parliament in July and August said they are protesting against corruption, the ruling elite, and foreign influence – chanting against Nouri al-Maliki, whom they accuse of corruption and mismanagement, as well as al-Sudani.
Will al-Sudani be able to cool down Iraq’s political tensions?
Despite hopes that electing the president and nominating the prime minister can put an end to the political turmoil in Iraq, many believe otherwise. In fact, for al-Sadr and his supporters, al-Sudani is simply the follower of al-Maliki in politics.
This is unacceptable for the Sadrists in the parliament and in the streets because for them, al-Maliki is a longtime and sworn enemy.
In this regard, Zeinab Shuker, an associate professor at Sam Houston State University believes that “since al-Sadrists view al-Sudani as al-Maliki’s man, they expect al-Sudani to promote al-Maliki’s agenda to target the interests of Sadrists within the state and its institutions, and – by extension – the very survival of the Sadrist movement, which depends on its access to the rentier resources of the state to ensure the continuation of its legitimacy,”