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Contentious Iraqi Assembly Fails to Elect Speaker

A top assembly member told the New York Times that the disorder could prolong the writing of a new constitution by as much as six months past the current target date of August 15.

The job of speaker is slated to go to a Sunni Muslim according to a power sharing agreement among Iraq’s Kurdish, Shiite, and Sunni ethnic groups.

But the top Sunni for the speaker position, Ghazi Yawar, president of the interim Iraqi government, withdrew his name from consideration on Monday, throwing the election process into disarray while assembly members hunted for a replacement. Yawar said Monday that he would rather take a position on the council that will choose Iraq’s prime minister.

According to sources within the assembly, an alternative Sunni candidate for the position of assembly speaker could be Fawaz al-Jabar, a Sunni Arab who was an ally of Shiite candidates during the elections.

Shiite and Kurdish parliament representatives have reportedly bickered among themselves as they sought to form a new government, repeatedly delaying the convening of the assembly elected more than two months ago. The two groups have also had trouble finding Sunni candidates willing to join them in a coalition since many Sunni activists and politicians boycotted the initial election.

Cameras were rolling Tuesday as assembly members participated in angry wrangling over the speaker position. After 20 minutes the assembly’s interim leader, Sheik Dhari al-Fayadh, ordered the cameras be turned off over the protest of some assembly members.

“We saw that things were confused today, so we gave them a last chance,” Hussein Sadr, a Shiite cleric and member of interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi’s coalition said. “We expect the Sunni Arab brothers to nominate their candidate. Otherwise, we will vote on a candidate on Sunday.”

Before the meeting Tuesday, members of the assembly had told reporters that they were close to agreeing on all the members of a new Iraqi government.

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