In a shameful and so far much-overlooked development, the Iraqi federal supreme court today issued a ruling to the effect that it has no jurisdiction in the question of the laws that govern replacement of candidates, leaving it to the politicians themselves to sort out the mess.
This is nonsensical for two reasons. Firstly, in appealing to article 93 regarding its own remit and its supposed inability to touch on issues that relate to interpretation of laws in force (as opposed to constitutional interpretation), the court has shown great inconsistency over the past years. In fact, in one of its landmark rulings in July 2009, the court actually used its interpretation of the law on governorates not organised in a region to overrule the constitution itself regarding parliamentary oversight of the governorate assemblies.
Secondly, and more importantly, the issue at hand is about far more than interpreting the replacement law on candidates from 2006. It is indeed about constitutional issues, since the principle of 1 deputy per 100,000 Iraqis is coming under threat when party leaderships dispose of replacement seats as they see fit and thereby upset the balance between governorates. The court also serves as a court of appeal in cases arising from the application of federal laws.
At any rate, by referring to a clause in the constitution that establishes a procedure for parliament to make decisions regarding the status of its own members by a two-thirds majority (which in turn can lead to an appeal to the federal supreme court), the court kicks the can a little further down the road and envisages possible involvement at a later stage. But it is totally unnecessary for the court to be so timid about the issue. Iraq needs a functioning parliament now, but instead of deciding on heads of parliamentary committees and its own bylaws, the assembly today declared another holiday which will last until 30 January, after the Shiite religious holiday of Arbain. Those waiting for a budget, security ministers, vice presidents or strategic councils will probably need to wait much longer than that.