Kurdish Fouad Massoum Elected New President of Iraq

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Iraqi leaders elected a new President Thursday: Kurdish politician Fouad Massoum.

"Everyone likes him,” Abbas al-Bayati, a Shiite lawmaker, told The New York Times.  “He is a moderate man and was agreed to by everyone,” adding that the 76-year-old is “a man who refuses divisions, and this is what we look for in the Iraqi president.”

The British Ambassador to Iraq Simon Collis and Kurdistan's High Representative to the United Kingdom Bayan Sami Rahman both praised the decision on Twitter Thursday. 

Massoum was born in the Kurdish capital of Irbil in 1938 and, along with current Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, founded the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan in 1975. Known as a staunch opponent of Sadam Hussein, Massoum helped draft the new Iraqi Constitution after the American-led invasion toppled the dictator in 2003. 

Since the U.S. withdrawal in 2011, the country has been racked with regional strife: Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has eliminated Sunnis from his government; Kurdistan moves closer to forming an independent state in the north; and the Islamic State, which overtook Mosul last month, continues on towards Baghdad. Just hours before the election, an attack on a prisoner convoy north of Baghdad left 60 people dead.

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Next up for Massoum will be overseeing the selection of a new Prime Minister, something that will determine the fate of the controversial al-Maliki, who has been in power since 2006 and fallen out of favor with the United States. While many have called for him to step down, al-Maliki maintains he will seek a third term. 

Last week Iraqi lawmakers elected Salim al-Jubouri, a moderate Sunni Islamist, as speaker of the parliament, after trying and failing to elect a speaker twice before. 

For more than a decade, an informal agreement has held whereby Iraq's President is a Kurd, it's Prime Minister a Shiite, and the speaker of its parliament a Sunni. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.