Iraq names moderate Sunni parliament speaker in move to break political deadlock

After picking Salim al-Jabouri , lawmakers argued over his Shia deputy

Salim al-Jabouri is the new speaker of the Iraqi Council of Representatives. Photograph: Ahmed Saad/Reuters

Salim al-Jabouri is the new speaker of the Iraqi Council of Representatives. Photograph: Ahmed Saad/Reuters

Wed, Jul 16, 2014, 01:00

Iraqi politicians named a moderate Sunni Islamist as speaker of parliament yesterday, a long-delayed first step towards a powersharing government urgently needed to save the state from disintegration in the face of a Sunni uprising.

But after picking Salim al-Jabouri as speaker, lawmakers argued for hours over his Shia deputy, suggesting they are still far from a deal on a new government or a decision on the fate of prime minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Iraq’s army and allied Shia militia launched an assault to retake the executed former dictator Saddam Hussein’s home city of Tikrit from the al-Qaeda offshoot known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (Isis) and allied militants, who seized it in mid-June during an assault through the north.

The stunning advance by the militants over the past month has put Iraq’s very survival in jeopardy even as its politicians have been deadlocked over forming a new government since an election in April.

Mr Maliki, whose State of Law coalition won the most seats but would need allies to form a government, has ruled since the election as a caretaker, defying demands from Sunnis and Kurds to step aside for a less-polarising figure.

Under Iraq’s governing system since the post-Saddam Hussein constitution was adopted in 2005, the prime minister is a member of the Shia majority, the speaker a Sunni and the largely ceremonial president a Kurd. Each of the three is meant to have two deputies, drawn from the other two groups. – (Reuters)