Iraq’s top court ruled Tuesday that the speaker and a rival lawmaker should be ousted from Parliament, following a high-profile feud between the two men.
The Federal Supreme Court said in a statement it decided to terminate Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi’s membership in Parliament along with that of lawmaker Laith al-Dulaimi. It did not elaborate on why it was issuing the decision.
Halbousi called the ruling unconstitutional, while his party said its members would protest the verdict by withdrawing from key positions in government and the Parliament.
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Halbousi, a former governor of western Iraq’s Anbar province who has maintained close ties to Gulf countries, was the highest Sunni official in Iraq. Under the country’s sectarian power-sharing system, the parliament speaker is always Sunni, the prime minister Shiite and the president Kurdish.
The court decision came against the backdrop of a dispute between Halbousi and Dulaimi, also Sunni. Dulaimi had filed a lawsuit against Halbousi claiming that the speaker had forged Dulaimi’s signature on a resignation letter, an allegation that Halbousi denied.
Halbousi said in a video statement following the ruling, “I am surprised by the issuance of these decisions. I am surprised by the lack of respect for the Constitution.”
He said that in his five years as speaker he had operated with integrity and “never discriminated between Sunnis and Shiites.”
Following the ruling, Halbousi’s Takadum (Progress) party announced that its representatives in the federal government — among them the deputy prime minister — would resign in protest, and that its members of Parliament would resign from parliamentary committees and boycott parliamentary sessions.
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Two Iraqi parliamentary officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment on the matter said the court decision cannot be appealed and the parliament will need to elect a new speaker.
The legislature will be managed by First Deputy Speaker Mohsen Al-Mandalawi, one of the officials said.
Halbousi could not immediately be reached for comment.
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The political shakeup comes ahead of Iraq’s scheduled Dec. 18 provincial elections.