Iraqi Parliament Elects Kurd as New President

Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, has been named the new president of Iraq and Ibrahim Jafari, a Shiite, is expected to be named prime minister.

Iraqi Parliament Elects Kurd as New President (WaPo)

Iraq’s National Assembly broke weeks of impasse Wednesday by electing a new president, Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani, and two vice presidents. Two senior Iraqi political officials said that the new appointees will move quickly to choose Ibrahim Jafari, a Shiite politician, as Iraq’s new prime minister, the most powerful political post in the new government.

The decisions come in the face of mounting popular dismay over the time lag between the country’s successful democratic election on January 30 and the organization of a new government charged with writing a permanent constitution for Iraq and replacing the interim Iraqi government led by Ayad Allawi. Underscoring the urgency of the situation has been a surge in violence over the past few days, including a well coordinated full-scale assault by insurgents on Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison that left more than 40 U.S. troops wounded and the kidnapping Tuesday of a senior Iraqi police official. The U.S. military Tuesday reported the death of four U.S. service members. Ali Debbagh, a senior official with the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance, and Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurdish politician and interim foreign minister, said an agreement had been reached to name Jafari on Thursday.

Talabani is the first Kurd to be Iraq’s president, a sign of the new clout of the minority that backed the U.S.-led invasion. The two vice presidents named were Adel Abdul Mahdi, a Shiite finance minister in the outgoing interim government, and Sunni Arab tribal leader Ghazi Yawar, the previous president of the interim government. “This is the new Iraq — an Iraq that elects a Kurd to be president and an Arab former president as his deputy,” parliament speaker Hajem al-Hassani said after the vote. “What more could the world want from us?”

Talabani, hailed by a standing ovation in parliament, pledged to work together with all ethnic and religious factions to rebuild Iraq after decades of conflict and dictatorship, wire services reported Monday. Jafari is the candidate of the United Iraqi Alliance, a largely Shiite Muslim coalition tacitly backed by the country’s most influential religious leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. The coalition won 48 percent of the vote in Iraq’s elections for a 275-member parliament.

It took long enough, although that’s hardly unusual in a multi-party system.

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James Joyner
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James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.