A recurrent theme in US commentary on Iraqi affairs is that things are moving in the right direction as far as a greater emphasis on democratic values is concerned.
The latest comment on constitutional matters by Faryad Rawanduzi, a Kurdistan Alliance official, offers some intriguing insights into the current level of respect for the constitution in Iraq. Or, rather, the lack of such respect. In an interview with the Aswat al-Iraq news agency, Rawanduzi yesterday bombastically declared that “the Kurdistan Alliance will not accept that two leading positons [prime minister, president or parliament speaker] are awarded to two persons from the same sect”!
وقال راوندوزي لوكالة (اصوات العراق) إن “التحالف الكردستاني لا يقبل ان يخصص منصبين سياديين الى شخصيتين من مذهب ديني واحد
Needless to say, these criteria are one hundred percent his own innovation (or possibly that of the Kurdish leadership at large). Apparently, some still need to be reminded that the presidency council and the special majority requirements that came with it were a unique transitional feature of the 2005–2010 period and have now expired. Formal sectarianism is not part of the Iraqi political system, and there is nothing that prevents, say, three Shiites or three Sunnis from taking all the leading positions if there is political support for this in parliament, i.e. absolute majorities for the speaker and the government and a simple plurality for the president. (Incidentally, Rawanduzi seems to forget that most Kurds are Sunni Muslims; in order to square his own path-breaking criteria with another stated Kurdish demand – that of having a Kurdish president – they would probably have to nominate a Kurdish Jew.)
This is of course not the first time the Kurds are seeking to undermine the constitution which they previously seemed to hold in such high regard. Perhaps the best known example is their insistence on implementation of article 140 (on disputed territories) and their complete disregard of article 142 (on constitutional revision, which could ultimately cancel 140). Similarly, late last year, amid discussion of French weapon sales to Iraq, another Kurdish politician, Adel Barwari, claimed the constitution dictated that a share of weapons procured by the Iraqi central government should be given to the Kurdish regional authorities in accordance with the constitution!
قال عادل برواري عضو مجلس النواب العراقي عن قائمة التحالف الكوردستاني في تصريح خاص لوكالة انباء بيامنير وراديو زاكروس: وقّعت وزارة الدفاع العراقية عدة عقود مع وزارة الدفاع الفرنسية، وذلك بهدف شراء بعض الهليوكوبترات والمصفحات الحديثة وآلات لكشف المتفجرات والعديد من المعدات الأخرى من فرنسا. مضيفاً أنه وبحسب الدستور، لإقليم كوردستان حصة من تلك المعدات والأسلحة، لأن إقليم كوردستان جزء من العراق، وقوات أمن الإقليم هي جزء من قوات الدفاع العراقية.
The context of Rawanduzi’s outburst is of course the intensified rapprochement between State of Law headed by Nuri al-Maliki and Iraqiyya led by Ayad Allawi. Perceptive Kurds correctly read this as a sign that their votes are not really needed to form a government this time. If that realisation in turn helps them reframe their own demands in a more moderate fashion, then it is a good thing and could offer good possibilities for their inclusion in government (as Allawi’s recent visit to Arbil may have indicated). If on the other hand it means a collective flight into the fantasy world of Faryad Rawanduzi, then it will lessen their prospect for participation in the next Iraqi government. Not much is expected to happen this week, which is a long holiday weekend in Iraq (though with both Allawi and Maliki currently in Lebanon according to reports). But suspense appears to be building towards next week, when the “first meeting” of parliament will have lasted exactly one month.