Breakthrough in Iraq: New President Elected

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Iraq's parliament has elected Kurdish compromise candidate Abdul Latif Rashid as president, and he in turn has asked an Iran-backed coalition's nominee for prime minister, Mohammed al-Sudani, to form a government.

This marks a breakthrough in Iraq, which has been in a state of political deadlock since elections were held a year ago.

Al-Sudani must still appoint a cabinet within 30 days that can win parliament's approval.

But the arrangement is a victory for the Iran-backed Coordination Framework of Shiite members of parliament led by former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. It also marks defeat for his rival, nationalist Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

Things may now finally start moving again in Iraq after a year of stasis, in which the caretaker government was unable to sign off on new projects, including a multi-faceted energy deal with TotalEnergies.

Total boss Patrick Pouyanne said last week that he expected the contract to be finalized and work to begin after a new government had been formed.

The formation of a new government should also lead to progress on other high-priority projects, notably the development of Iraq's gas resources.

In recent months Iraq has experienced an upheaval that revealed deep rifts within the ruling elite and triggered mass protests, the storming of parliament and an outbreak of violence in the heavily-fortified Green Zone.

But the resignation in June of the 73 members of parliament loyal to al-Sadr — frustrated by the influence and spoiler power of their opponents — ultimately paved the way for al-Maliki's bloc to prevail.

Tensions are likely to remain high, however.

The new president was elected hours after rockets reportedly landed near the parliament building.

And it remains unclear what al-Sadr might do next. He was the biggest winner in last year's elections and also has an unrivaled ability to mobilize millions of protesters.

Some observers have low expectations of what a new administration will be able to achieve.

"Given the forces arrayed against reform and in favor of the existing dysfunctional system, it would be unrealistic to expect much headway from the Sudani government," Sajad Jiyad of the Century Foundation think tank wrote on Friday.

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