BAGHDAD: Iraq’s parliament on Thursday elected Kurdish politician Abdul Latif Rashid as president, according to two lawmakers, paving the way for the formation of a new government and ending a year of deadlock.
Rashid, 78, is a British-educated engineer and was the Iraqi minister of water resources from 2003-2010. He has 15 days to invite a nominee from the largest parliamentary bloc to form a government.
Rashid won more than 160 votes against 99 for the incumbent Barham Saleh, an assembly official said.
Rashid's first task was expected to be nominating a candidate for prime minister to replace the current caretaker premier, Mustafa al Kadhemi, and attempt to form a new government for the crisis-hit nation.
A favoured candidate for the prime minister's post was Mohammed Shia al Sudani, 52, of the Coordination Framework bloc.
When Sudani was first proposed in July, this sparked mass protests by backers of his rival, the fiery populist and cleric Moqtada Sadr, whose followers breached the Green Zone and stormed parliament.
A new reminder of Iraq's troubles came on Thursday as the lawmakers headed into parliament, when a barrage of nine Katyusha-style rockets rained down on the area, the security forces said.
At least 10 people were wounded, including six members of the security forces or bodyguards of lawmakers, as well as four civilians in a nearby district, a security official said.
US Ambassador Alina Romanowski condemned the attack "in the strongest terms" on Twitter and warned that "the people of Iraq must resolve their political differences & grievances solely thru peaceful means.
"Attacks like these undermine democracy & trap Iraq in a perpetual cycle of violence."
Lawmakers had made three previous attempts to elect a new head of state, in February and March, but failed to even reach the required two-thirds threshold for a quorum. -- Reuters