By QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA – Associated Press
BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq’s top court banned a former Kurdish politician from the country’s presidency on Sunday, citing lingering corruption allegations.
Hoshyar Zebari, a former foreign minister and longtime Iraqi diplomat, had been a favorite against incumbent President Barham Salih. In the Iraqi political system, parliament votes to choose the president who in turn appoints the prime minister.
Zebari’s candidacy was backed by powerful Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose bloc emerged victorious in the October 10 parliamentary elections. Sunday’s decision is likely to prolong a standoff between factions over who should be the country’s next president and prime minister.
The Federal Supreme Court last week temporarily suspended Zebari’s nomination after four lawmakers filed a petition. The move delayed parliament’s vote to choose a new president that was scheduled for Feb. 7, as many members boycotted the session in support of Zebari.
At a press conference after the court’s verdict on Sunday, Zebari said the court’s decision was politically motivated and called it an “injustice”.
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The corruption allegations against him stem from his tenure as finance minister, when he was removed from office in 2016 for alleged corruption. He was never convicted.
Zebari is the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) candidate for the post, competing with Salih.
Salih now has a better chance of keeping his post, unless the KDP replaces Zebari with another candidate. The KDP holds 31 seats in Iraq’s 329-member parliament after October’s elections, which is the highest of any other Kurdish party. Saleh represents the KDP’s main rival in Iraqi Kurdistan, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).
The court also ruled that Barham Salih will continue as president until a new president is elected.
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