July 22, 2024

Mohammed al-Halbousi calls decision ‘strange’, implies it violates constitution and undermines national stability.

Iraq‘s top court has terminated the tenure of Parliament speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi, who called the decision “strange” and suggested it violated the constitution and undermined national stability.

The Federal Supreme Court’s ruling on the career of the country’s most powerful Sunni politician is final and not subject to appeal, according to state media reports on Tuesday.

The court said in a statement that it decided to terminate al-Halbousi’s membership in Parliament along with that of lawmaker Laith al-Dulaimi. It did not elaborate on why it was issuing the decision.

In a video shared by his media office, al-Halbousi also said: “We are surprised by the issuance of such decisions, we are surprised by their lack of respect for the constitution.”

He said that in his five years as speaker he had operated with integrity and “never discriminated” between Sunni and Shia Muslims.

The decision was related to a case brought against al-Halbousi this year by the same court, state media reported, without elaborating, according to the Reuters news agency.

Lawmakers had gathered for a regular parliamentary session and al-Halbousi was in the chamber at the time the decision was issued but then exited, independent Iraqi lawmaker Amer al-Fayez told Reuters.

Al-Halbousi, a former governor of Anbar province, was elected speaker in 2018. He was 37 at the time and the youngest speaker of Parliament in Iraq’s history. He was re-elected in 2022 for a second term.

He has been the highest Sunni official in Iraq. Under the country’s sectarian power-sharing system, the Parliament speaker is always Sunni, the prime minister Shia and the president Kurdish.

Now 42, the former engineer from western Iraq who worked as a US contractor after the United States’ invasion in 2003, cultivated good relations with the Shia  Muslims and Kurds who helped his rise to power.

However, he lost support within Iraq’s ruling Shia alliance, the Coordination Framework (CF), after he tried to form a government with their opponents following parliamentary elections in 2022. He ultimately joined the CF in government, but analysts say the damage was done and he was seen as untrustworthy and as accumulating too much power due to his push to rally Sunnis who had been politically divided since 2003 into a unified front.

The court’s decision was against the backdrop of a dispute between al-Halbousi and al-Dulaimi, also Sunni. Al-Dulaimi had filed a lawsuit against al-Halbousi claiming that the speaker had forged his signature on a resignation letter, an allegation the speaker denied, The Associated Press news agency reported.

Deputy Speaker Mohsen al-Mandalawi will take over as interim speaker until a new head of the legislature is appointed.

The political shakeup comes ahead of Iraq’s scheduled provincial elections on December 18. Polls for provincial councils last took place a decade ago.

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