Veteran Iraqi politician Fuad Masum is almost guaranteed to become Iraq's next president, with the main Kurdish blocs in parliament agreeing on his candidacy, AFP reported.
According to an unofficial power-sharing agreement, the position of federal president goes to a Kurd and Masum edged his rival Barham Saleh during a vote Kurdish MPs held behind closed doors in a Baghdad hotel, officials told news agency AFP on Wednesday.
"Fuad Masum is the only candidate of the Kurdish blocs for the position of president," a senior Kurdish official who witnessed the vote said.
Other officials confirmed Fuad Masum, who was born in 1938 and became the first prime minister of autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan in 1992, had received more votes than Saleh.
Masum is from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) party of Jalal Talabani, the man he is now almost certain to succeed as head of state when parliament holds a vote.
The chamber is due to convene on Thursday after MPs failed to even broach the subject during a Wednesday session, in a sign Kurdish politicians had not yet reached a deal.
The Kurds' endorsement of Masum came a few days after the ailing Talabani, 80, returned from 18 months of medical treatment in Germany to serve out the last days of his tenure.
Some commentators have said the powerful Talabani family deeply objected to Saleh, who is also a PUK member and former prime minister, and therefore pushed for Masum.