Barham Salih of the PUK is elected as President of Iraq

Wins 219 votes in second round
Photo Credit: The Baghdad Post/File

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SULAIMANI — Barham Salih of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) has been elected as the new President of Iraq after a second round of voting on Tuesday (October 2).

The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) attempted to withdraw their candidate Faud Hussein, who had been Salih's nearest rival in the first round, but the request was denied by the Speaker of the Council of Representatives, Mohammed al-Halbusi.

In the end, Salih won 219 votes to Hussein's 22. There were 31 blank or otherwise invalid ballots.

A total of 272 MPs voted in the second round, a steep drop-off from the 303 who participated in the first round.

 In the first round, Salih received 165 votes to Hussein's 90, while independent candidate Abdulwahid won 18 votes.

Abdulwahid was the first woman to run for Iraqi president.

Before the vote, Abdulkareem Abtan of National Coalition, Salim Hamza Shushkayee of the Kurdistan Islamic Group (KIG), Omer Barzinji, and Abdullatif Rashid withdrew from the race.

The new president needed at least two-thirds of the vote to be elected, when neither Salih or Hussein achieved this, parliament voted again between the top two finishers. Only a simple majority was needed in the second round.

The position has traditionally been held by a member of the PUK, with the late Jalal Talabani and Fuad Masum serving before Salih.

Up until recently, Salih was the head of a Kurdish opposition party, the Coalition for Democracy and Justice, but rejoined the PUK on September 19.

The KDP believed that they had come to an understanding with the PUK about how the new president would be chosen, but this appeared to break down once the latter brought Salih back into the fold and nominated him as their candidate.

In response, the KDP nominated Fuad Hussein, who is the chief of staff for the Kurdistan Region’s presidency.

In the lead up to the vote, a number of politicians and officials had urged the Kurdish parties to come to an agreement and field a joint candidate, but were unable to do so as late as Tuesday morning.

As the votes were being counted, KDP President Masoud Barzani released a statement saying that “the Kurdish candidate should have been chosen by either the largest parliamentary bloc or through an agreement between the Kurdish blocs.”

“The current mechanism cannot be accepted, and we will have our position in the near future,” he added.

The vote was originally scheduled on Monday evening, but was postponed after the parliament failed to achieve quorum.

A similar issue arose on Tuesday, but the constitutional requirement that the president be elected by the end of the day pressured the speaker to hold a vote.