Iraq MPs vote to sack parliament speaker, deepening crisis

Members of parliament who held a sit-in, shout slogans during a news conference at the parliament building in Baghdad, Iraq, on April 14, 2016.
Members of parliament who held a sit-in, shout slogans during a news conference at the parliament building in Baghdad, Iraq, on April 14, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

Baghdad (AFP) - Iraqi lawmakers voted on Thursday (April 14) to remove the parliament speaker and his deputies amid a major row over the cabinet lineup that has caused chaos in the legislature, officials said.

The move further delays efforts to select a new cabinet and worsens political turmoil in Iraq at a time when the country is battling the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group and struggling with a major financial crisis.

It came a day after a fistfight broke out between lawmakers in the parliament hall, an event that was preceded by lawmakers holding an overnight sit-in inside the building.

Parliament speaker Salim al-Juburi, one of the country's main Sunni Arab politicians, issued a statement saying that the session, which he did not attend, was unconstitutional and that the required quorum of 165 was not reached.

The session held "in the absence of the presidency of parliament is unconstitutional and lacked the necessary quorum," the statement said.

But Niyazi Oghlu, the official responsible for taking a role call at parliament, put the number of lawmakers present at 173, while two other lawmakers also said more than 170 attended.

Iraqi premier Haider al-Abadi has called for the current cabinet of party-affiliated ministers to be replaced by a government of technocrats, and presented a list of nominees at the end of March.

But he has faced significant resistance from the powerful parties that rely on control of ministries for patronage and funds.

The political blocs put forward their own candidates, and most of Abadi's were replaced on a second list that he gave to parliament on Tuesday.

Some MPs demanded to vote on Abadi's original list and began a sit-in at parliament when the session was adjourned until Thursday.

Juburi then called an "emergency" session on Wednesday, but it ended with lawmakers shouting, shoving and throwing punches in the parliament hall.