Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Archive for November 13th, 2010

The Great Fudge in Parliament

Posted by Reidar Visser on Saturday, 13 November 2010 19:37

This is essentially a non-story, but since it will be exploited by ignorant world leaders rushing to congratulate the Iraqis on their new wonderful “power-sharing arrangements”, a few words are in order.

Basically, nothing significant happened at today’s session of the Iraqi parliament. Yes, there was a majority vote expressing “support” for the “Barzani initiative” and the agreements that led to the nomination of Maliki for a second term. But then again, who doesn’t “support the Barzani initiative”? The obvious problem here is that declarations of support are not what matter here. Laws are what matter. That is the modus operandi of the parliament, and if the intention is to succeed with the “power-sharing” strategy, then the Iraqiyya coalition needs to make sure that the relevant legislation for their projected wing of the Iraqi government – the national council for strategic policies  – comes into existence sooner rather than later (some refer to a council for “high policies” instead, just to indicate how much this is just fiction right now).

The problems in this regard are pretty obvious. Maliki ally Hassan al-Sunayd was actually right when he said that this kind of endorsement of political agreements made outside parliament is not the kind of matter parliament would normally deal with. Of course, had there been agreement, there would have been a law! But there is no agreement. Even Humam Hammudi of ISCI, which has been flirting with Iraqiyya for the past year or so, indicated that the new national council would come into existence without taking power from any existing institution. That sounds  rather more like a think tank than the “power-sharing deal” the media write about. Additionally, there was bad news outside the assembly for Iraqiyya, where wild rumours concerning the status of the agreement signed by Barzani, Allawi and Maliki were floating around for some time, and at least some Kurds and State of Law members identified a link between Iraqiyya’s failure to support Jalal Talabani for president and the fate of the projected strategic council earmarked for Iraqiyya in the original deal. On top of that, there was also strong criticism from these corners against the acceptance speech by Usama al-Nujayfi, the new speaker – which in fact had featured numerous valid criticisms of the first Maliki government and the constitution adopted in 2005.

Some reports suggest that one implication of today’s vote is that the de-Bathification of three Iraqiyya leaders, Salih al-Mutlak, Zafir al-Ani and Rasim al-Awwadi, will definitely be reversed. In actual fact, if this came about as a result of parliamentary action, it would make matters worse! Unless one believes in some kind of parliamentary absolutism it simply is not the job of the Iraqi parliament to interfere on an ad hoc basis with the judiciary. Even though it was framed as a request for goodwill and involved “testing the waters”, it was clumsy and parochial of Iraqiyya to go ahead with the narrow request for three persons to be cleared in an extra-judicial way. The bigger problem is of course the whole de-Baathification process. It is true that Mutlak and Ani were clearly de-Baathified for no good reason, but the appropriate response would be to attack the system as a whole and work to change it. And again, one gets the impression that Iraqiyya does not get its priorities right. It had its moment of leverage for some 10 minutes on Thursday, after Nujayfi had been elected speaker and in theory could have filibustered the whole process of nominating Maliki. But then came the walkout and Maliki was nominated; now Iraqiyya will have to work through legislation if it wishes to achieve real guarantees of power-sharing.

The rest of today’s parliamentary proceedings did not bode well, with several raving speeches far away from the subject matters that were on the agenda. Turkmen deputies broke away from their ideological blocs to express demands for Turkmen positions in government. The Kurds in the assembly seemed mostly preoccupied with expressing panegyrics for their great leader, Masud Barzani and his wonderful “initiative”; Mahmud Uthman also wanted to talk about the Christians. As she always does, Safiya al-Suhayl managed to identify a lack of focus on women in the political agreement. One might wonder if it was all a deliberate plot to sabotage the proceedings, but it seemed to represent the same genuine basic incompetence that characterised the previous assembly.

Some in Iraqiyya are apparently trying to spin today’s fudge as a great success. That may give them peace of mind as Iraq closes down for Eid al-Adha next week. But in the long term it will be counter-productive and create disappointment; only firm legislative action once parliament reconvenes on 21 November can make a real change.

Posted in Iraq's 2010 parliamentary election, Iraqi constitutional issues | 17 Comments »