Further Problems in the Iraqi Parliament: Some Representatives Are More Equal Than Others
Posted by Reidar Visser on Tuesday, 20 October 2009 16:18
A headline by an Iraqi newswire service this morning spelt out the problem: “The parliament will keep searching for a solution on Kirkuk until a consensus position is arrived at”. And search they did, for a couple of hours at least, until Iraqi parliamentarians in predictable fashion called it a day again in the early afternoon.
But actually, a consensus solution is not required. Either Iraqi parliamentarians have a very short memory, or they are in fact making up new rules and establishing preferential treatment for the representatives of certain parties. For example, on 11 October 2006 one of the most fateful decisions in Iraq’s post-2003 history was made when parliament adopted the law for the formation of federal regions in a situation where almost half the assembly boycotted the vote and until this day it remains unclear whether the quorum threshold was actually met. Similarly, on 19 April this year, Ayyad al-Samarrai was adopted as new speaker against 79 votes that were either blank or in favour of his challenger. On both occasions, large segments of the Iraqi parliament failed to have it their way – and gracefully accepted the result.
So why cannot the same method be used for the elections law, where it is possible to vote article by article on the alternatives that are already defined? True, the two biggest Kurdish parties are threatening to march out if any proposal that is at the slightest variance with their own view is even presented for a vote. But is there really any difference from 11 October 2006, when the Kurdish parties remained in the assembly and happily adopted the federalism law with half the parliament absent in boycott? In fact, in contrast to the situation in 2006, in this case those who want to go ahead with the vote have actually presented a range of compromise alternatives that should be attractive to the Kurds if they would only look at them with new eyes – including revisiting the electoral registers of Kirkuk, establishing a special committee to look into the issue, or a separate elections law for the Tamim governorate.
So far, the nationalist Hiwar bloc and Izz al-Din al-Dawla, an independent from Mosul, have been at the forefront of the calls to hold a vote. The Daawa party, too, has seemed more eager than others to move the process forward together with their independent allies (such as Khalid al-Atiyya, who actually tried to hold a second session yesterday afternoon without achieving a quorum), whereas ISCI and Jalal al-Din al-Saghir in particular have been central to the attempts to delay a vote until there is a consensus, thereby taking a position reminiscent of their old alliance with the Kurds (Sami al-Askari of the Daawa openly accused members of the ISCI-led Iraqi National Alliance of deliberately staying away from today’s session) . Yesterday, Saghir reproached Ali al-Adib of the Daawa for wanting to press ahead with a vote, saying this would prompt a presidential veto by Jalal Talabani. That could of course happen, but, as the Sadrist Baha al-Aaraji put it earlier, Talabani would then have to choose between being the president of Iraq or the president of Kurdish alliance.
Iraq’s political system as defined by the 2005 constitution is already overcharged with checks and balances to the point where government has entered a state of paralysis. The inhabitants of a country that is one of the world’s most important energy suppliers are still facing poor standards of living because their politicians keep searching for elusive consensus. It’s enough consensus and time for a vote.
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