Barham Salih pulls off political masterstroke with resignation threat

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - In a political masterstroke, the Iraqi President Barham Salih has made his rejection of the current Prime Ministerial candidate Assad Al Eidanni public.

After days of discreetly trying to convince the leadership of the political bloc AlBina, heavily supported by Iran, of the folly of their choice of Al Eidanni, Mr Salih has made his rejection abundantly clear.

Mr Salih has gone so far as to announce that he would step down, rather than appoint Al Eidanni to the position. In a four-page letter sent to the head of parliament on Thursday afternoon, Mr Salih made clear that Al Eidanni is neither a suitable candidate nor one that meets the aspirations of Iraq’s protesters.

Protesters wave the Iraqi national flag at a roadblock in the southern city of Basra. AFP

A protester holds a national flag as he stands by a fire in Basra. AFP

A protester draped in a national flag stands by a fire in Basra. AFP

A protester wearing face-paint imitating "The Joker" poses for a picture near a sit-in by Senak bridge over the Tigris in Baghdad. AFP

A protester looks out from a tent on the Senak bridge. AFP

A Christmas tree is decorated with national flags and the pictures of protesters who were killed in clashes at Tahrir Square. EPA

A protester walks by crossed pictures of senior Iraqi officials in Tahrir Square. EPA

Protesters stage a sit-in near Tahrir Square. AP Photo

Protesters stage a sit-in on barriers at the Senak bridge leading to the heavily fortified Green Zone. AP Photo

A view of concrete barriers forming a barricade along Senak bridge. AFP

Protesters stage a sit-in on barriers at the Ahrar bridge. AP Photo

A view of the sit-in beneath the abandoned "Turkish Restaurant" building overlooking Tahrir Square. AFP

Protesters stage a sit-in while security forces close the Ahrar Bridge. AP Photo

Mr Al Eidanni was the governor of Basra, and is widely rejected as a candidate by the protest movement in Iraq due to the rampant corruption and mismanagement during his tenure in Basra. One of the primary calls of the protestors has been for a non-political and non-partisan figure to take the position of Prime Minister, and Mr Al Eidanni is neither.

Mr Salih believes that parliament had to decide whether they will give him the opportunity to choose a Prime Minister who meets the demands of the protesters that took to the streets since last October, or the presidency becomes vacant. With a fragmented parliament, it is unlikely that the legislature will vote to remove Mr Salih, making it likely that Mr Al Eidanni’s candidacy will fail. Should parliament accept Mr Salih’s resignation, Iraq would enter into a greater period of uncertainty.

Iraq protests

In his letter, Mr Salih accepts that the constitution mandates that the largest parliamentary bloc can choose the candidate for Prime Minister but he explains that this choice is unacceptable. He goes on to say that “the will of the Iraqi people is the source of legitimacy for all authorities in the country”, and thus he cannot go against it. What remains to be seen is whether the protesters in the streets of Iraq will support Mr Salih in this move. If he can gain their support, then parliament will not be in a position to accept his resignation, nor impose Al Eidanni. Thus far, no sitting official has been able to gain the support or trust of the protesters.

The unexpected move by Mr Salih is a smart one, allowing him more freedom to choose a suitable Prime Minister, or to leave his position with dignity.

Updated: December 26, 2019 05:58 PM

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