Speaker battle moves to Federal Supreme Court

On Saturday 20 February 2009, the saga of the election of a speaker of the Council of Representatives shifted to the courts when the largest Sunni political group, the Iraqi Islamic Party, part of the Iraqi Accord Front coalition, asked the Federal Supreme Court to rule on how many votes are needed to select the speaker.
The move could cause further delay to the selection process, which is needed to get lawmakers moving on key issues such as Iraq’s oil law and constitutional review. On Thursday, the candidate backed by the Iraqi Islamic Party, Ayad al-Sammaraie, narrowly failed to get the necessary votes to become parliament speaker. The parliament has been without a speaker since the previous incumbent, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani resigned in December.
The dispute is about whether Article 55 of the Constitution and Article 12.3 of the Bylaws of the Council of Representatives requires an absolute majority of those entitled to vote or whether that only relates to the first session and therefore whether for this subsequent election, an absolute majority of those voting would be sufficient. Mr Sammaraie obtained 136 votes out of 234 members who attended the session on Thursday 18 February 2009. There are 275 members of the Council of Representatives.
Article 55 of the Constitution reads:
The Council of Representatives shall elect in its first session its speaker, then his first deputy and second deputy, by an absolute majority of the total number of the Council members by direct secret ballot.
Article 12.3 of the Bylaws of the Council of Representatives reads:
If the position of the speaker of COR or any Deputy becomes vacant for any reason, the COR shall elect by absolute majority replacement at the first meeting after the occurrence of the vacancy in accordance with the rules of political balance between blocs.

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