January 11, 2021: -Iraq’s new Parliament held its first session on Sunday, almost three months after Iraqis voted in a general election whose results have been contested by powerful Iran-backed factions.
In a reflection of the tensions, the meeting was marked by disarray. The eldest member of Parliament led the session being evacuated to the hospital apparently because of the stress.
The chaotic meeting ushers in what is to be a lengthy period of political wrangling among rival groups to choose a new president and prime minister.
As the leader of the biggest bloc, Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, a maverick leader remembered for leading an insurgency against U.S. forces after the 2003 invasion, has the upper hand in forming a new government. But he will have to manage tensions with rival Shiite groups who continue to reject the election results and demand a say in the government formation process.
According to Iraq’s constitution, the bloc in Parliament has the right to choose the new prime minister. But as the meeting got Sunday underway, a coalition is known as the Shiite Coordination Framework, an alliance of Shiite factions which object to the vote results, submitted a paper claiming they, rather than al-Sadr, hold the biggest parliamentary bloc with 88 seats.
Chaos erupted briefly in the chamber, in which lawmakers crowded around Mahmood al-Mashhadani, who led the session. Within minutes, the 73-year-old lawmaker was carried out of the room and bundled in an ambulance that took him to hospital. According to witnesses who later saw him there, the lawmaker appeared to be in good condition.
Following the disruption, the parliament session resumed, although the issue of the majority was not resolved.
On Sunday, lawmakers from al-Sadr’s bloc arrived at the parliament building in Baghdad, donning white shrouds Muslims use to wrap their dead in a sign of their willingness to die for him. Al-Sadr, one of Iraq’s most influential political leaders, won the October 10 vote, which 73 out of Parliament’s 329 seats.
A significant blow was that pro-Iran factions that alleged voter fraud lost around two-thirds of their seats. For over two months, supporters of armed groups pitched tents. They staged a sit-in around the capital’s Green Zone, which houses the Iraqi government and many foreign diplomatic missions, appealing to Iraq’s top court.