Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Archive for July 12th, 2010

Another Artificial Deadline for the Iraqi Parliament

Posted by Reidar Visser on Monday, 12 July 2010 14:23

The decision by Iraqi politial leaders, announced today, to postpone for two weeks the resumption of the first meeting of parliament (which started on 14 June and which technically remains ongoing), is in reality something of a non-story.

This is so for several reasons. Most importantly, tomorrow’s “deadline” for electing a president was in technical terms artificial and even incorrect. That is the case because according to the constitution, the 30 days timeline for electing the president is counted from the end of the first meeting. And since the first meeting has not ended yet, the counting process hasn’t really started; the “deadline” was just hype, even though both the media, politicians and Iraqi judicial experts made their contributions to it.

The real culprit in all of this is of course the device of the “open-ended session”: Parliamentary meetings that can continue for weeks and months even though the parliamentary chamber itself is deserted. The precedent consists primarily of the government-formation process in March and April 2006 (when an “initial” meeting technically lasted for more than 40 days), and, importantly in this context, also the counting rules used later in 2006 when legislation for forming federal regions was adopted. Counting from the beginning of the first meeting of parliament in mid-March, the 6-month constitutional deadline for adopting legislation on region-formation would have been mid-September; however at the time it was agreed that the first “open meeting” of parliament had lasted until the end of what was physically the second meeting on 22 April and hence the deadline for passing federalism legislation was similarly extended to late October (that deadline, in turn, was actually met).

For these reasons, one should perhaps not make too much of the promise by the Iraqi politicians today to meet again in two weeks’ time with an agreed package of candidates for parliamentary speaker, president and prime minister. Meanwhile, as a reminder of where we stand in terms of the coalition­ landscape, today’s meeting of the blocs (yes that is kutal, the plural of kutla, as per the relevant constitutional language for identifying the biggest parliamentary entity) apparently did not produce any unified representation by the would-be Shiite bloc. However, for Iraqiyya, today’s postponement should serve as a clear indication that the Kurds and the Iraqi National Alliance are not prepared to back an Allawi government – otherwise a deal should have been possible by now. On the other hand, Maliki will be under considerable pressure from Iran to step down and allow a unified all-Shiite alliance of INA and SLA – it is noteworthy that some of the more sectarian leaders of the Daawa have been in the forefront of criticising their own party’s dialogue with Allawi, including people who advocated union with INA back in the summer of 2009. INA, in turn, is simply waiting for the marginalisation of Maliki (and not for the emergence of Allawi as a premier candidate, which they could have had today if they truly wanted it). For these reasons, generosity by Iraqiyya towards SLA may be their best bet for securing a pre-eminent role in the next Iraqi government.

Posted in Iraq's 2010 parliamentary election, Iraqi constitutional issues | 35 Comments »