Posted on | April 19, 2009
On Sunday 19 April 2009, the Council of Representatives elected Ayad al-Sammaraie as the new speaker. The post of speaker has been vacant since Mahmud Mashhadani, an outspoken Sunni in Iraq’s Shiite-dominated political system, resigned on 23 December 2008. Previous attempts to elect a speaker have resulted in stalemate because no candidate has achieved an absolute majority of those entitled to vote in the 275 person legislature as would appear to be required by Article 55 of the Constitution which requires the Council of Representatives to “elect in its first session its speaker . . . by an absolute majority of the total number of the Council members by direct secret ballot” and Rule 12.3 of the Bylaws of the Council of Representatives which specifies: “If the position of the speaker of COR . . . 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.”
On this vote, Ayad al-Sammaraie received 153 votes, comfortably clear of the 138 required. The chair of the finance committee, he has been leading the Iraqi Accord Front, the principal grouping of Sunni MPs and he belongs to the Iraqi Islamic Party. His opponent on this vote, Mustafa al-Hiti of the National Dialogue Front won 34 votes and there were 45 blank ballots. Mr Sammaraie has been an outspoken critic of the Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki.
Contrary to some media reports, the Constitution does not require the Speaker to be Sunni.