Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Archive for January 10th, 2010

More De-Baathification Antics in the Iraqi Parliament

Posted by Reidar Visser on Sunday, 10 January 2010 18:55

The Iraqi parliament reconvened again today, and developments there just confirmed the picture of a fragile and improvised political process, vulnerable to the same kind of immature whims that characterised the initial response to the Hashemi veto of the election law.

The roles are a little different this time though. Back at the time of the Hashemi veto, the Daawa party were in the lead in the most savage and least logical attacks on the presidential veto, although they were ably assisted by both Sadrists and ISCI. This time, it is the Sadrist head of the justice and accountability committee, Falah al-Shanshal, that is the loudest defender of the moves by the justice and accountability board to bar Salih al-Mutlak from participating in the March elections (Shanshal apparently seems to think his committee has a role in “supervising” the board, even though no such specific role is prescribed by the justice and accountability law). Unsurprisingly, the Buratha news agency, which caters for the ISCI rank and file, is also ecstatic, as is Al-Bayyina al-Jadida, one of the more sectarian Shiite newspapers which tends to support Maliki (every day it has a new Baathist conspiracy on its front page; this time it alleges that Mutlak is excluded due to money received from former US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad!) On the other hand, Maliki’s own party has been somewhat more subdued in its response, even if  Ali al-Adib today is reported as having accused Mutlak of “exploiting the issue for propaganda purposes (sic)”.

It is interesting that the Iraqi legal authorities today, as a matter of urgency, have also asked the Iraqi parliament to approve its candidates for a special appeals court devoted to de-Baathification issues. Of course, the law that mandated the creation of the new justice and accountability board was adopted back in February 2008, and it does not inspire confidence that a request for an appeals unit suddenly arrives in parliament now, before a new board has even been seated. According to the law, the appeals court for de-Baathification cases will consist of seven judges, to be approved by the Iraqi parliament. The court will make its decisions by a simple majority; apparently the latest move has been made in anticipation of appeals relating to excluded candidates in the forthcoming elections, although in theory it might also  be a pre-emptive move by the court aimed at shifting responsibility for the next difficult decision to parliament.

A minor detail of the justice and accountability law highlights the implausibility of pushing through new arrangements at this point: The appeal court will issue its decisions within sixty days! Even if the court were constituted tomorrow, it might be too late for giving due consideration to an appeal by Mutlak before the elections. All in all, common sense suggests that it is the anachronistic and often secretive justice and accountability committee headed by Ali al-Lami that should now be shoved to the sidelines, and not Salih al-Mutlak – who after all has been a part of Iraq’s democracy for four years.

Posted in Iraq's 2010 parliamentary election, Iraqi constitutional issues, UIA dynamics | 39 Comments »