July 24, 2014 / 11:55 AM / 3 years ago

Iraq parliament elects senior Kurdish politician president

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq’s parliament elected senior Kurdish lawmaker Fouad Masoum as president on Thursday, a long-awaited step in creating a new government capable of countering a Sunni Muslim insurgency.

Fouad Masoum, Iraq's newly elected president, smiles during a news conference in Baghdad, July 24, 2014. REUTERS/Ahmed Saad

Iraq’s politicians have been in deadlock over forming a new government since an election in April. The next step, choosing a prime minister, may prove far more difficult.

Shi‘ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has ruled since the election in a caretaker capacity, defying demands from the Sunnis and Kurds that he step aside for a less divisive figure. Even some Shi‘ites oppose his bid for a third term.

Critics say Maliki is a polarising figure who has stirred up sectarian tensions that have worsened since Sunni insurgents swept through north and west Iraq last month, seizing large swathes of territory and declaring a “caliphate”.

A shooting and bombing attack on a bus near Baghdad killed 52 prisoners and nine policemen on Thursday, Ministry of Justice sources said, highlighting the need for political leaders to bury their differences and bring stability. [ID:L6N0PZ244]

Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Robin Pomeroy

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