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Iraq’s Parliament Selects New Speaker

The Iraqi parliament selected a new speaker Sunday after months of turmoil and failed majority votes prevented the appointment of a speaker.

The new speaker, Ayad Samarrai, a 63 year-old Sunni Arab, defeated his opponent, Mustafa al-Hiti, by a result of 153 votes to 36. The Iraqi parliament has 275 members, and 86 members did not vote or cast blank ballots, according to a report from the New York Times.

In a February vote, Samarrai received 136 votes, only two votes shy of the 138 that were required for victory.

Under the Iraqi system of government, the position of parliament speaker is reserved for a Sunni Arab, according to the New York Times.

Samarrai was considered the favorite for the position since it was left vacant in December by Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, who claimed he was forced to step down by rival political parties, including the Iraqi Islamic Party, of which Samarrai is a member.

Samarrai has also been a vocal opponent of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, a member of the Dawa party. However, following his election, Samarrai express an interest in working with Maliki.

“Parliament should be complementary to the executive system, not hold it up,” Samarrai said to the New York Times.

A spokesman for Maliki did not have any comment on Samarrai’s election when contacted by the New York Times.

Samarrai had dual Iraqi-British citizenship, and lived in Britain during Sadaam Hussein’s rule, returning to Iraq after the United States evasion of 2003, according to a report from the Associated Press, appearing in the USA Today.