Thu, Oct 04, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Kurdish moderate Saleh sweeps Iraqi presidential vote


Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, center left, walks out of parliament with Iraqi President Barham Saleh, center right, in Baghdad on Tuesday.

Photo: AFP

Moderate Kurdish candidate Barham Saleh on Tuesday was elected president of Iraq in a parliamentary vote pitting Kurdish heavyweights against each other for the first time following an ill-fated independence referendum.

Saleh routed his main rival Fuad Hussein 219-22, dealing a blow to Hussein’s main backer, former Iraqi Kurdistan president Massud Barzani, who was the architect of the poll in September last year.

Saleh instructed former Iraqi vice president Adel Abdel Mahdi to form a government.

Tuesday’s poll follows a weekend parliamentary election in the Kurdish autonomous region, mired in economic crisis and still in shock from the fallout of the plebiscite.

The largely ceremonial role of president has been reserved for the Kurds since Iraq’s first multiparty elections in 2005, two years after the US-led invasion that toppled former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.

Under a tacit accord between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the latter would hold the federal presidency and the former the post of Iraqi Kurdistan president.

However, the Iraqi Kurdistan presidency has been left vacant since KDP leader Massud Barzani’s mandate ended following the referendum that he championed.

The vote for an Iraqi president was scheduled for Monday before being postponed due to the lack of a quorum.

In a first round of polling, neither Saleh nor Hussein won the two-thirds vote necessary to win outright, forcing a second round.

Barzani had backed for president Fuad Hussein, his 72-year-old former chief of staff and veteran of the opposition to Saddam Hussein.

However, the post went to Saleh, a 58-year-old moderate who has served as Iraqi deputy premier and Kurdish prime minister.

He was part of an interim authority put in place by the US following the 2003 invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein.

He later became Iraqi deputy prime minister under Nuri al-Maliki, then returned to the Kurdish regional capital Arbil in 2009 to become head of the Kurdistan government.

For senior PUK official Khaled Shouani, it was important to put forward a “moderate” candidate for president who would be “accepted by all” and push to repair ties between Baghdad and the Kurdish region.

The new president’s tendency to push for consensus would also satisfy both the US and the PUK’s traditional ally Iran, Shouani said.

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