Middle East

Iraqi Council of Representatives fails to elect speaker

Members of Iraq's new Council of Representatives attend its first session in Baghdad on 1 July 2014 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The inaugural session of the Council of Representatives lasted less than two hours

Iraq's new parliament has ended its first session in disarray, with MPs failing to make any progress in choosing the country's new leadership.

The Council of Representatives was due to elect a speaker, but Kurdish and Sunni Arab MPs did not return after a break, depriving it of a quorum.

Acting Speaker Mahdi al-Hafez said parliament would reconvene in a week.

Iraq's politicians have been urged to unite in the face of the jihadist-led Sunni rebellion in the north and west.

The central government in Baghdad has lost control of vast swathes of territory over the past month, and on Sunday the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis) declared the establishment of a "caliphate" covering the land it holds in Iraq and Syria.

Isis fighters parading through the Syrian city of Raqqa on Monday showed off military hardware which appeared to include a Scud missile.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Isis militants paraded what appeared to be a Scud missile in the Syrian city of Raqqa on Monday
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption They also showed off a self-propelled gun...
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption ... and a tank

The United Nations has said at least 2,417 Iraqis, including 1,531 civilians, were killed in "acts of violence and terrorism" in June.

The figure does not include fatalities in the western province of Anbar, where the Iraqi authorities say 244 civilians died.

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Media captionThe BBC's Jeremy Bowen considers whether the Iraqi government can prevent the break up of the country

Noisy accusations

The first session of parliament since April's elections ended after less than two hours.

Kurdish MPs, who faced noisy accusations of disloyalty from some supporters of Shia Arab Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, walked out. Other MPs followed and soon there were not enough to continue.

Analysis: Paul Adams, BBC News, Baghdad

It had been hoped that the gravity of the crisis facing Iraq might be enough for the country's recently elected MPs to set aside their differences.

But since the elections in April, events on the ground have moved with terrifying speed.

Sunni militants have captured swathes of territory and declared an Islamic state. The Kurds have extended the boundaries of their own autonomous region. And once again, Iraqis are dying in huge numbers - about 2,500 in June alone, the worst monthly death toll since 2007.

The country is fracturing and its MPs do not seem to know how to stop it.

Kurdish MP Najiba Najib called on Mr Maliki to "end the blockade" and to stop withholding federal budget payments to the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government.

Kadhim al-Sayadi, a member of the prime minister's State of Law bloc, responded by threatening to "crush the heads" of Iraq's Kurds.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Nouri Maliki's political bloc won April's elections and he wants the chance to form a governing coalition
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Iraqi government forces have managed to stop the militant advance short of the capital
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced by the fighting

Mr Hafez, who as the oldest MP presided over the session, said the Council of Representatives would reconvene next Tuesday "if there is the possibility of an agreement".

As the leader of the bloc that won the most votes in April, Mr Maliki has demanded the right to attempt to form a governing coalition.

Iraq's constitutional timetable

  • According to Iraq's constitution, the Council of Representatives is required to elect a new speaker during its opening session
  • It must choose a president within 30 days of electing a speaker
  • Within 15 days of the president's election, the largest bloc must nominate a new prime minister
  • Under a de facto power sharing agreement, the speaker is a Sunni Arab, the prime minister a Shia Arab, and the president a Kurd
  • After the 2010 elections, it took nine months to form a new government

But he has faced calls from his Sunni, Kurdish and Shia opponents to step down because of his handling of the current security crisis, as well as what they say are the sectarian and authoritarian policies he has pursued during his previous two terms in office.

Iraq's most senior Shia cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, had called on all parties to agree on the appointments before parliament convened.

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Media captionLeader of the Kurdish region of Iraq Massoud Barzani: "The goal of Kurdistan is independence"

Earlier, the president of the Kurdistan Region, Massoud Barzani, told the BBC he intended to hold a referendum on independence within months.

Mr Barzani said the time was right for a vote had Iraq had already been "effectively partitioned", with Kurdish peshmerga fighters moving into disputed areas abandoned by Iraqi security forces in the face of the Isis advance, including the oil-rich Kirkuk region.

While the Kurds would play a part in any political solution to this "tragic situation", independence was their "right", he added.

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