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    Iraq Parliament swears in new members after walkout of 73

    BAGHDAD (AP) – Iraq’s Parliament swore in dozens of new lawmakers on Thursday, replacing 73 legislators loyal to powerful Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, strengthening the power of rival Shiite factions in the assembly.

    The 73 had resigned collectively earlier this month amid a prolonged political impasse over the formation of the country’s next government.

    The unprecedented walkout, based on a request from al-Sadr, threw Iraq into further uncertainty, reshuffling the deck following the October 10 elections, which gave him the biggest bloc in Parliament.

    Although he emerged as a winner, al-Sadr has been locked in a power struggle with internal Shiite rivals backed by Iran and was unable to cobble together a coalition that can form a majority government. Two weeks ago, he ordered lawmakers from his parliamentary bloc to resign in a bid to break the eight-month impasse.

    The move threw Iraq’s political landscape into disarray. According to Iraqi laws, if any seat in Parliament becomes vacant, the candidate who obtains the second highest number of votes in their electoral district would replace them.

    In this case, it made al-Sadr’s opponents from the so-called Coordination Framework, a coalition led by Iran-backed Shiite parties and their allies, the majority with around 122 seats.

    It puts al-Sadr out of Parliament for the first time since 2005, and allows pro-Iranian factions to determine the makeup of the next government.

    “Today, the first step has been completed, which is the replacement deputies taking the oath,” said Lawmaker Muhammad Saadoun Sayhod, from the Rule of Law coalition represented in the Framework.

    Muqtada al-Sadr during a news conference in Najaf. PHOTO: AP
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