Iraqi speaker dispute thwarts vote on 2009 budget

A prolonged political dispute over choosing a new speaker for Iraq's parliament has thwarted a vote on the 2009 budget.

Iraqi speaker dispute thwarts vote on 2009 budget
A prolonged political row over choosing a new speaker for Iraq's parliament has thwarted a vote on the 2009 budget, slowing the approval of funds needed to improve services and rebuild after almost six years of war.

Khalid al-Attiya, acting speaker of parliament, told Reuters political blocs were holding talks in a bid to overcome the impasse in choosing a replacement for Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, the Sunni Arab politician who stepped down as speaker in December.

No budget vote can occur without a new speaker, he said.

"We hope to find a solution today or tomorrow. Otherwise it will be put off until Tuesday of next week after (the Shi'ite religious holiday) Arbain," Attiya said. The resignation of Mashhadani, whose brash style angered some fellow politicians, revealed fissures among Sunni lawmakers and prompted some members to quit the Accordance front, Iraq's largest Sunni Arab bloc.

Attiya said the next speaker must also come from the Sunni Arab community according to common agreement.

Under an unwritten agreement to share top offices among the three main communities, Iraq's president is a Kurd, it's prime minister a Shi'ite Arab and the speaker a Sunni Arab.

So far politicians have not been able to agree on a candidate, whose confirmation will require a simply majority. Salim al-Jubouri, spokesman for the Accordance Front, said his bloc's preferred candidate was its leader, Ayad al-Samarai, but disagreement from other camps, including Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Shi'ite Dawa Party, had held up the process.

The flap has larger implications for Iraq, which has yet to pass major legislation needed in the oil sector and other areas, and is another hiccup for a financial outlook tainted by the collapse in global oil prices.

Iraq's spending plans for 2009 have already been slashed to $62 billion from an original $80 billion after oil fell from $147 a barrel last summer to around $40 a barrel now.

Iraq expects to run a budget deficit of $19 billion in 2009 -- but the deficit will be covered by last year's surplus. Even the $62 billion spending plan may be unachievable since it is calculated using an oil price of $50 a barrel and an average oil export rate of 2 million barrels per day, both seen as optimistic assumptions.

Reuters
Last Mod: 09 Şubat 2009, 16:29
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