Shifting Coalitions in Iraq's Parliament


On April 19th, 2009, Iraq’s Council of Representatives (CoR) successfully elected Ayad al-Samaraie as its new speaker of parliament, nearly five months after the previous speaker, Mahmoud al-Mashadani, vacated the position in December of 2008.  The difficulties faced by the CoR in electing its new speaker reflect the shifting coalitions in Iraqi national politics, driven in part by recent provincial and upcoming parliamentary elections.

Ayad al-Samaraie, Iraq’s new speaker of parliament, is a long-time member and Deputy Secretary of the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP), which is currently led by Iraqi Vice-President Tariq al-Hashemi.  Al-Samaraie is also the head of the Sunni Tawafoq Alliance (IAF) in parliament. He is a trained mechanical engineer and has been an active member of Islamist movements since 1962. He has also spent significant amounts of time in Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and Great Britain leading up to his return to Iraq following the 2003 invasion.

Mahmoud al-Mashadani, a Sunni, is a founding member of the National Dialogue Council (NDC).  He nevertheless supported – and indeed drove – the passage of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s major legislation in 2008, including the Amnesty and Provincial Powers laws,  as well as the politically-charged strategic agreement with the United States.  Mashadani, however, is also known for his emotional outbursts, having once slapped a fellow law maker shortly after having adjourned a parliamentary session.  Finally, on December 23rd, 2008, he was pressured to resign according to stated reasons of repeated, similar offenses.  Unofficially, however, it is more likely that Mashadani’s support for Maliki made him a prime target as a prelude to staging a no-confidence vote against the Prime Minister.