Politics & Economics

Veteran Kurd Barham Salih becomes Iraq's next president

Iraq

The veteran secular Kurdish politician Barham Salih belonging to the PUK was elected on Tuesday as Iraq’s next president. Salih won 219 votes to defeat a challenge from Fuad Hussein from the rival KDP. The post of Iraq's presidency has been customarily allocated to the Kurds.

The veteran secular Kurdish politician Barham Salih was elected on Tuesday as the next president of Iraq.

Salih, of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), faced a challenge from Fuad Hussein of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). But Hussein withdrew from the second round of voting in parliament on Tuesday.

His first act in the role was to assign Adel Abdul Mahdi, a veteran Shiite politician and former vice president, to form a government.

The selection of the president is the second step in forming a government and is usually the easiest because the two main Kurdish parties decided on a single candidate in advance.

The post of president is allocated to the Kurds under a 2005 agreement with Shiite and Sunni political forces.

But the failure of the PUK and the KDP to agree on a candidate turned the process into the latest political crisis to hit Baghdad since May elections.

Salih, 60, a senior PUK member, is considered a moderate. He studied at British universities and holds a PhD in data and statistics. He has occupied many regional and federal positions of government over the last 20 years.

For the first time since 2003 Tuesday’s parliamentary session witnessed a break from reaching a political consensus to appoint the main positions of government.

MPs were allowed by the heads of the main alliances to vote freely for whichever candidate they wanted, deputies told Arab News.

The session was attended by 301 MPs for the first time since 2003 and 19 candidates stood for the post of president.

Salih won 219 votes in the decisive second round, while Hussein won 22.

The president is mostly a ceremonial position and does not have executive powers. But many hope Barham will play a key role in improving relations between Baghdad and the Kurdish region and between the Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite blocs in parliament.

Image: AFP

Article: Arab News