Iraqi parliament elects new speaker

April 19, 2009 11:34:39 AM PDT
Iraq's parliament ended months of political paralysis Sunday by electing a prominent Sunni lawmaker as its new speaker. The selection of Ayad al-Samarraie opens the way for parliament to deal with crucial reforms that have been on hold for nearly four months. Among the issues facing parliament: passing laws to regulate the country's oil and gas riches and addressing possible constitutional changes on central government powers.

Al-Samarraie, a member of the parliament's finance committee, received 153 votes - far ahead of the runner-up candidate with just 36 votes. He will succeed Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, who resigned Dec.

23 amid widespread complaints about his erratic behavior.

Under Iraq's political system, the speaker post goes to a Sunni Arab. But the main Sunni bloc could not agree on a candidate until al-Samarraie emerged as a compromise figure.

Al-Samarraie lived in Britain for decades during Saddam Hussein's rule and was part of the Iraqi exiles in contact with Washington before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

"We will do our best to reform parliament and enable it to play a more active role," he said shortly after being elected.

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