The Presidency Council Intervenes in the De-Baathification Debate
Posted by Reidar Visser on Tuesday, 4 May 2010 17:20
The Iraqi presidency council, consisting of President Jalal Talabani, Vice-President Adel Abd al-Mahdi and Vice-President Tareq al-Hashemi, has today intervened in the de-Baathification debate in an interesting way: It expresses the view that regardless of the de-Baathification status of individual candidates, no votes shall be taken from lists. Also, in a move probably intended to highlight that demand and speed up the certification process, the council suggested that the Iraqi judicial authorities should proceed with certification of all governorates and only leave Baghdad open, where the manual recount is expected to last for another week or two.
These measures are helpful in that they could serve to bring some kind of closure to the de-Baathification process, which has long ago run out of control and has become an arena for settling scores and advancing party interests. The move protects the right of the Iraqi voters, and might go some way towards focusing minds on the necessary negotiations ahead. Nonetheless, it cannot escape notice that two of the authors of today’s decision, Talabani and Abd al-Mahdi, only a few months ago supported the first revival of the de-Baathification debate, partly directly and partly indirectly through the work of people in their own electoral alliances. In this way, the rise and fall of the de-Baathification issue looks very much like a trap designed to ensnare Nuri al-Maliki, whose consolidation of power was disliked by all three members of the presidency council. And to some extent, this succeeded since Maliki eventually gave in to the temptations of using the de-Baathification card, whereas the parties that initiated the campaign are now switching to a softer tone and are making all the sounds Washington wants them to make.
Of course, what the presidency council is doing here is somewhat messy in terms of its constitutionality. True, the presidency has a general task of safeguarding compliance with the constitution, but no specific powers or instruments to implement that task have been put in place except for the veto power of the presidency council. Indeed, when today’s press release calls for non-interference in the work of the Iraqi judiciary it all smacks of self-contradiction: Interference is precisely what the presidency council is up to! Nonetheless, the point can probably be made that the Iraqi electoral process long ago strayed from the legalist path, and in today’s situation any move that can serve to restore some credibility to the process should be welcome.
The United States is likely to second the move by the presidency council, since it has been pointing in that direction itself. However, if the political affiliations of the men behind today’s decision also suggest the contours of a new grand alliance in the making then this may not be such great news. Masud Barzani of the Kurdistan Alliance recently used the opportunity to renew his call for a tripartite federation of “Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds”, and Adel Abd al-Mahdi’s Iraqi National Alliance is making headway with its plans to absorb some or all of the other Shiite-led alliance, State of Law. That all sounds rather like 2005.
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