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Iraq elects a new, young, speaker of parliament

Counting the votes (Courtesy)

Mohammed Al-Halbusi was elected the speaker of Iraq's Parliament on Saturday. The election comes months after the May elections and after a failed attempt to elected a speaker earlier in September. Halbusi is the governor of Anbar and a Sunni. He is also young, born in 1981, making him a rarity among some of the aging leadership in Iraq who are more products of the 1980s period than sons of it.

His election was supported by the National Axis alliance which included a group of Sunni led-political parties. The speaker of parliament has tended to be a Sunni under Baghdad's divided politics that has seen Shia Prime Ministers and Kurdish Presidents often since the 2003 US-led toppling of Saddam Hussein. Halbusi defeated Khalid al-Obeidi, the former defense minister, winning 169 to 85 votes. The defeat of Obeidi is a major fall for the former defense minister who helped lead the war on ISIS before he was pushed out in 2016 before the battle for Mosul.

Halbusi has a background in civil engineering, graduating in 2006 with an MA from a university in Baghdad. According to reports he entered politics in 2014. He won a seat in parliament in May with the Anbar Hawiyyatuna (Our Identity).

His election is being framed as a win for the "pro-Iran" factions in parliament, including Nouri al-Maliki and Hadi al-Amiri's two powerful lists. Numerous accounts that follow Iraqi politics on social media accused the "pro-Iranian" camp of supporting him and engineering his election.

However a recent interview with him at Al-Monitor painted a different picture. He appeared to critique the numerous militias and checkpoints in Anbar, including the role of the PMU. He supported the deployment of more federal forces.

"The proliferation of forces and excessive division of territory leads to confusion, additional expenses and waste in general, Gov. Halbusi said. 'I would like to open the road between Fallujah and Ramadi, for example, but now the two areas are split with different army officers commanding' each area, he told Al-Monitor during an interview at his Baghdad home. The army officers each 'demand separate scanners, separate everything,' despite the two checkpoints being very close to each other."

The different portrayals will become more clear in coming days, but his election paves the way for the eventual creation of a new Iraqi governing coalition. This young man will seek to make an impact in Baghdad, as he has tried in Anbar, part of a new generation of leaders.

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