Iraq and Gulf Analysis

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.

17 Responses to “The Great Fudge in Parliament”

  1. Kermanshahi said

    So the Turkmens broke off from all 3 major blocs? How has this changed their number of seats than?

  2. Reidar Visser said

    Not break away as in “defection”, but rather by making rousing speeches in the name of the “Turkmen people”, in blunt disregard of the supposed “Iraqist” ideology of their coalitions. Abbas al-Bayati of SLA and I think one of the Iraqiyya Turkmens engaged in this today.

  3. Zaid said

    Small point of clarification – the constitution and the parliament’s bylaws allow for 10 MPs to submit draft legislation, independently of the government.

  4. Kermanshahi said

    The Iraqi Turkmen Front is Turkish Nationalist/Kemalist group which was created by the Turkish regime to gain influence in Iraq, they were never Iraqi nationalists, the only reason they joined up with al-Iraqiyya is because they both are opposed to a referendum in Kerkuk (because they will loose) but rather than wanting Kerkuk under Iraqi rule they’d rather see population deportations (all Kurds who returned after 2003 and all Arabs who were brought there prior to 2003) for them to become a majority and create a Turkmen autonomous republic there. This was strategical (both facing the same enemy), not ideological alliance. They would have run alone, like last time, only as it started sinking in that there are clearly not 4.5 milion Turkmens in Iraq they knew they had to join a list to win at least some seats.

    But the Maliki and INA Turkmens are supposed to be there out of ideology, though.

  5. Reidar Visser said

    But that’s just to get a proposal going, right? I get the sense that the executive is involved in presenting the laws themselves:

    لمادة (60 ):
    أولاً ـ مشروعات القوانبن تقدم من رئيس الجمهورية ومجلس الوزراء.
    ثانياً ـ مقترحات القوانين تقدم من عشرةٍ من اعضاء مجلس النواب، أو من احدى لجانه المختصة.

    Though I agree the bylaws from 2006 seem to indicate a possibility for entirely separate legislative action. Would make it even more significant for Iraqiyya to hold on to the speakership!

  6. IMARK said

    I don’t understand your statement: “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”
    Do you think that would be a good thing for Iraq?
    Actualy, Osama Alnujayfi gained the respect of all Iraqis by indicating that he is foremost an Iraqi citizen before being an Al-Iraqiyya partisan.

  7. Reidar Visser said

    IMARK, I’m pretty disillusioned with both Maliki and Iraqiyya to be honest. What I was trying to say was that if Iraqiyya wanted firm guarantees prior to the seating of the government, that was their major window for doing something truly dramatic in terms of demanding legislative action. Now that they have handed everything over to Maliki, they don’t have much more leverage. I fear that chasing signed documents and reading them out in parliament will lead to the same kind of disappointments and frustrations that the Kurds have had in the past.

  8. IMARK said

    Thank you Reidar, I appreciate your clarification. It is unfortunate that all parties want to be part of the government only in order to guarantee a piece of the loot and they don’t trust each other for good reasons. Any way, I am not all together disappointed with the outcome as I think there is a chance for some decent elements of Iraqiyya and other parties to play the role of opposition and this is better served if they remain outside the government and not by sabotaging the whole political process in spite of its faults as the alternative is to plunge the country once again in an armed and bloody conflict.

  9. Santana said

    Iraqiya committed some big mistakes since last March. Their negotiating power today is a fraction of what it was a few months ago had they done a deal with SoL back then. Anyway- the fragility of this new government is severe….I can’t see how anything is gonna get accomplished….

    I was wonderiing about Mutlaq or Hashimi getting the foreign Ministry…none of them wants to report to Maliki nor will their pride allow them to walk around behind him on his trips.

    I can just imagine how hard it is for anyone to comply with directives from a guy they beat in the elections !That must be tough !

  10. Reidar Visser said

    This site is a complete rumour mill and frequently publishes exaggerated stories, but the photograph that accompanies this story seems to be consonant with the narrative of Mutlak, Eisawi and Nujayfi meeting with Talabani yesterday in a supposed breakaway from the Allawi faction in Iraqiyya:
    Mutlak would be crazy to accept the post of “deputy president”, but the fact that the meeting apparently took place is interesting. It would be in line with the same tendency described earlier:

  11. Kermanshahi said

    Reidar, so now we know the Speaker is al-Nujayfi from al-Iraqiyya, his deputies are Qusay al-Suhail from the Sadr Movement/INA and Aref Tayfour
    from the Kurdistan Democratic Party/KA. Do you know who are going to be the two Deputy Prime Ministers and the two Vice-Presidents?

    I guess they are probably going to go with the secterian formula again (looking at what happened in the speaker post) but I’m curious which parties will get the positions

  12. Reidar Visser said

    Deputy-premier rumours are swirling around just like any other minister rumour. There is no constitutional requirement for the PM to have any deputies in the next government.

    Similarly, there are plenty of deputy-president rumours but they mean nothing. There is not even a law for electing the deputies, and the constitution does not specify their numbers. Remember that the presidential council with the two deputies, which is now dead, has no relationship to the ordinary presidency.

  13. Zaid said

    to be honest, i don’t know if there are any examples of laws that the COR has passed that went through the whole process without involvement from the government at any point, but there is nothing in the current rules that would suggest that it can’t happen in theory.

  14. Kirk Sowell said

    Zaid – actually there is. There constitution doesn’t say this explicitly by my reading, but the Iraqi Supreme Court’s “social affairs” decision about four months ago ruled that parliament can’t pass a law without involvement of the prime minister. So that has been tried in theory and then shot down. Of course, nothing requires the Court to be consistent, so maybe they could do that now and ignore the previous ruling. But if they follow precedent, parliament can’t act independently.

  15. Zaid said

    my reading of that decision was that it only related to that one particular issue, but you are right that it could be applied more widely. thanks for reminding me of it though – as the principles established in that decision would at the very least apply to any attempt by the parliament to establish a national security council without the executive’s involvement.

  16. Dear Reidar,

    Going back to your (indisputable) point about the need to revise the de-Ba’athification process. My understanding was that Section 3 of Article 135 of the constitution prohibited nominees to the CoR, PM, Presidency etc. are not subject to the provisions of de-Ba’athification while the Accountability and Justice Law talks only of de-Ba’athifying civil servants (and political officers in the presidency office and the PMO). The 2010 elections show that this isn’t the case and CoR nominees were excluded under de-Ba’athification. Do you know what mechanisms were used to get past this?

  17. Reidar Visser said

    Tim, briefly, 135/3 says nominees for those positions “must not be subject to de-Baathification measures” in the sense that otherwise they would be ineligible. However, the main problem in early 2010 was not the exclusion of those who were subject to de-Baathification according to the 2008 law, but the attempts to exclude persons without reference to that law. I have explained the definition of being “subject to the de-Baathification rulings” at some greater length here:

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