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Iraq Elects Pro-Iran Sunni As Parliament Speaker


Newly elected parliament speaker Muhammad al-Halbusi addresses the Iraqi parliament in Baghdad on September 15.

Iraq's parliament has elected Sunni lawmaker Muhammad al-Halbusi as its new speaker as the country moves closer to establishing a new government after months of tense negotiations.

Halbusi's election on September 15 marked the start of a 90-day process designed to finalize a new government.

Halbusi, 37, will be the youngest speaker of parliament in Iraq's history.

He was backed by the pro-Iranian bloc led by Hadi al-Ameri's Conquest Alliance, a coalition of former paramilitary fighters.

The post of first deputy speaker was given to Hassan Karim, put forward by Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose political bloc won the largest share of seats in the May general elections.

Ameri’s bloc came in second in the vote, followed by Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi’s coalition.

Iran hailed the selections made by the Iraqi lawmakers, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi saying on September 16 that Tehran had "always supported Iraq's democracy, territorial integrity, and national sovereignty."

Parliament must next elect a president and give the mandate to the leader of the largest bloc to form a government as prime minister.

In an effort to calm sectarian tensions and rivalries, the speaker of Iraq's parliament is reserved for a Sunni member, while the prime minister is to be Shi'a and the president a Kurd.

Violent protests in recent weeks have broken out in the southern city of Basra, as demonstrators have raged against government corruption. Some have also complained about Iran's influence in Iraq's government and military affairs.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AFP, and Al-Jazeera